To guide and inspire collective action towards embracing volunteer engagement as a key strategy for driving positive community change.
Our nation faces pressing community and environmental challenges—poverty, climate change, lack of health care access, and much more. Millions of people in communities nationwide have the energy and desire to volunteer to help address these issues, but a recent survey found that more than 30% of charities lack the necessary support and infrastructure to effectively deploy volunteers.
The potential for volunteer engagement to build capacity of organizations to address critical needs is compelling. Research confirms that organizations that leverage volunteers effectively are significantly more adaptable, sustainable, and scalable than are organizations that do not engage volunteers or that do not do so effectively. Yet, volunteer engagement often remains siloed from other key organizational functions, treated as an add-on rather than a mission-critical strategy.
The lack of coordination and support for volunteer engagement creates troubling results:
Volunteer engagement is an underutilized strategy to address community needs. There remains a disconnect between what volunteers want and how organizations and communities tap into their interests and abundant skills. Funders rarely recognize the potential of volunteer engagement in mission fulfillment and, therefore, rarely fund volunteer engagement infrastructure.
Organizational leadership often doesn’t recognize the ties between the giving of time and the giving of money, missing out on a tremendous opportunity to leverage the link between volunteering and increasing financial resources. In fact, a study by Fidelity Charitable found the majority of high-net-worth donors who volunteer give ten times more money than non-volunteers — and most donate to the organizations in which they are involved.
With few notable exceptions, volunteer engagement receives minimal attention by educational institutions and research programs. Practical research on effective volunteer engagement is limited and is not easily available to influence organizational leaders and prepare future volunteer managers. Much of the research that does exist around volunteerism is not relevant to what the field actually needs or is out of date. Practitioners also desire a better understanding of research and how it applies to practice.
While several national organizations are dedicated to supporting volunteer engagement, generally, they still work in silos, potentially duplicating efforts — or even competing with each other. Best practices aren’t shared across sectors. Additionally, many organizations lack training on volunteer engagement for staff and volunteer leaders.
Volunteer engagement professionals lack one clear place for information and support on volunteer engagement leadership and strategy. Despite multiple organizations and agencies engaging volunteers, there is little coordination of efforts. Engagement professionals desire networking and communication with leaders of volunteers within and across their sector.
There is good news! To address these issues, the National Alliance for Volunteer Engagement will be a forum to convene, communicate, and share resources in support of strategic volunteer engagement.
A Strong Vision
The National Alliance is leveraging and convening existing networks, organizations, and individuals to elevate and drive a national conversation about the power and potential of volunteer engagement, as well as encourage collective action for nationwide engagement strategies.The Alliance is not a replacement for existing organizations such as Points of Light, America’s Service Commissions, AL!VE (Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement), or other national or regional organizations or associations. Rather, it is a coalition to facilitate collaboration across these organizations and sectors for aligned collective action. AL!VE is generously providing support to the Alliance as co-facilitator and fiscal agent.Through the work of the Alliance, we are creating a new future for volunteer engagement where…
… collaboration is maximized at the local and national levels and across sectors to elevate volunteer engagement. Strategic volunteer engagement is integrated through diverse partnerships and supported by influential stakeholders. Perspectives are broadened and efforts are leveraged to create lasting, meaningful change.
… volunteer engagement is viewed as a strategy – rather than a program – to measurably increase mission-driven impact. A shared, research-driven, consistently delivered vision for engagement is communicated throughout organizations, communities, and the nation. A unified professional vision and voice is channeled through a robust leadership pipeline.
… volunteer engagement is viewed by funders as a cost-effective strategy that helps organizations achieve their missions. Awareness of the need for infrastructure and support inspires innovative investments and grant-making opportunities.
… research on volunteer engagement is relevant and accessible, and insights are converted into actionable steps. Higher education is engaged by institutionalizing related course work and setting standards. Research priorities are shared and results widely disseminated, providing a bridge between local action and academic work.
… communication is centralized on the national level, providing a critical hub for information, tools, resources, best practices, and connections to other relevant organizations. This national communications hub serves as a platform to cultivate emerging leaders, share research and best practices, and standardize impact measures. It supports a peer learning network that offers mentoring and creates connections across communities of practice. Peer-owned and peer-driven, this hub accelerates continuous improvements in the field.
…through regular convenings (in person and virtual), there is ongoing collaboration and exchanges of best practices and cutting-edge innovations. Best practices in training for effective engagement are shared across sectors. There is ongoing collaboration and exchange between the local and national levels, amplifying their roles as agents of change.