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Increase or Decrease in Volunteers?

by Annie Sutton

Last month the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that nonprofits are seeing a decline in volunteers as a result of the recession. A few months back the Columbia Chronicle reported the opposite: an increase in volunteer numbers since the recession.

We’ve heard both sides and now we want to hear from you!

What has been the trend for your organization? Have you noticed an increase or decrease in the number of volunteers? Do you think it is related to the recession?

2 thoughts on “Increase or Decrease in Volunteers?

At my organization – not the one linked in my name above – we’ve seen a decline.

Though, honestly, I don’t think we can attribute it to the recession, but I won’t go there. :-/

Bill Ewing says:

The Boston Globe (9/7), NonProfit Times (9/3) and the ones already mentioned have presented seemingly contradictory articles. Volunteer activity during this recession can be seen as up, down or unchanged. I think the important issue is that there is no clear agreement on the definition or value of a volunteer. It’s a sloppy term that can be used to reference board members, AmeriCorps, work release or a variety of projects for which the person may or may not be mission-driven. 50 people sorting food for 2 hours at a food bank on company time & expecting a T-shirt that says “I ended world hunger” or 1 trained person who gives 2 hours every week, same time, with a long term commitment; these aren’t the same. Give me that one person please.

So how do we measure volunteer activity? Hours? The IRS looks at the 50 two hour people and the 2 hour/week person as being equal. Anyone who is compensated or “ordered” shouldn’t be counted at all. The bottom-line should be a measurable value to the nonprofit which most often results from luck (ex.walk-ins) in a small organization or an organized volunteer program developed by larger ones.

Why doesn’t VolunteerMaine weigh in on this question?

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