Why Invest in Volunteers?

Nevada Volunteers is all about volunteerism and, no, despite our name, we don’t have a huge group of volunteers that we directly manage. While we would love to claim all the wonderful volunteers in our state as our own, we focus our efforts on working with those businesses and nonprofits and municipalities that call for volunteers. We want those organizations to provide a well-organized, meaningful, and impacting volunteer experience.

How many times does a friend say, “well I tried to help, but they didn’t need me” or “no one called me back” or “I offered suggestions but no one wanted to listen”. These are the small actions—or inactions—that often turn people away from volunteering. Our goal is to minimize these in favor of the more positive responses that we also hear—“I can’t believe how attached I have become to this project”, or “I didn’t think what I did would make such a difference” or “it is such a joy for me to volunteer…”.

You can see immediately why having an effective volunteer program with a designated person to coordinate and interact with volunteers is so important. So part of our investment here at Nevada Volunteers is to support the quality and learning of volunteer coordinators—whether they are volunteers themselves or paid staff positions. Beyond that, however, the latest research findings prove that organizations that effectively manage volunteers are able to deliver stronger impact in the community and are run more efficiently as organizations. So another goal is to increase the number of organizations who can deliver on that promise: Build an effective volunteer program that aligns with your mission and build your organization. These organizations are known as ‘service enterprises’. Service Enterprise Definition

Nonprofits across Nevada are moving in this direction—strategically aligning their volunteer efforts to impact their mission and dedicating the resources needed upfront to reap the benefit later.

  • With 1.75 paid staff, Senior Outreach Services engages between 150-160 volunteers in Washoe County who provide services to seniors to allow them to stay in their homes. With approximately 27,000 donated hours of service, the value of the volunteer effort is $594,000 (based on $22/hr) and the staff cost is $115,000, an effective return of 5:1 per dollar invested. The cost effectiveness of such a program is only possible with the needed resources to manage the volunteers, train and support them, and make sure their services are aligned appropriately with the scope and mission of the program.
  • AARP is a familiar model that operates effectively in Nevada as well as nationally. As an example, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program utilized 270 volunteers who helped more than 21,000 Nevadans file their federal returns. Their efforts resulted in more than $11 million in tax refunds. The program is offered at approximately 40 sites across Nevada including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations and is managed in partnership with the IRS.
  • Washoe County School District has allocated specific resources—space, positions, and resources—so that community volunteers are welcomed and utilized to deliver on the school district’s mission. Volunteers are not only helping in classrooms but are being trained to directly impact student success as mentors and tutors in specific subjects and using specific teaching strategies.

Learn more about the ‘service enterprise’ model by attending the pre-conference workshop on May 8th at the Rio in Las Vegas. Information is at http://lasvegasconference.org or contact Nevada Volunteers at 775-825-1900.

We here at Nevada Volunteers are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with you with your volunteer needs, so let’s get started!

Written by Janet Wright, Volunteer Development Manager, at Nevada Volunteers

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