Volunteers are a crucial resource that philanthropy can help cultivate


Vipul Chawla


The significance of volunteer work as a collective action is crucial for societal upliftment. Volunteers act like fuel to the engine of non-profits, as some organisations depend highly on the work these individuals engage in. Philanthropy should cultivate this critical resource.

From providing professional skills to conducting strategic planning, volunteers are deeply involved in inter-departmental functions and magnify the operations of non-profits. They not only raise funds from external sources but also donate to organisations and causes close to their hearts. Volunteers can act as more than just a human resource for non-profits; as they can also possibly be a potential long-term source of funding. Four in ten volunteers donate their time before donating funds. This makes a massive opportunity for the philanthropy sector, as volunteers are more likely to donate to an organisation than non-volunteers.


Image credit: Unsplash

Volunteers continue to work with an organisation as long as they feel empowered by the impacts and causes they are passionate about. They stay committed to non-profits till the non-profits showcase the same sense of belongingness, respect, and trust to them. With a proper governance strategy to mobilize and retain the volunteer workforce, non-profits could essentially not only ensure a steady supply of labour but also funding.

In its Volunteer Mobilization and Management Strategy, United Nations Volunteers states that mobilising people, enabling participation, and promoting volunteerism as critical elements for volunteers to make important contributions, add unique value, and bring communities together. Similar strategies could be witnessed in the functioning of self-help groups or SHGs (small, voluntary, informal institutions built on the idea of mutual help and belief). Commonly formed by women, SHGs in India have emerged as one of the world’s largest institutional platforms catering to the economic needs of the poor and vulnerable section of society. These SHGs have come forward to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in India, meeting the shortfall of supply in masks, sanitizers, and protective equipment.

In the Dhumli Village, Lakshmi Sakhi Mandal, a 12 member SHG belonging to backward communities supported women to start a handicrafts store with a contribution of ₹100 (£0.97) per member as initial capital. The store initiated as a leisure activity for its members became a stable source of family income. With more than 4400 members, the SHG has saved ₹80,00,000 (£78,000) as revenue as well as for internal lending.

A key takeaway from this social model for philanthropists is that volunteers, who passionately believe in issues and organisations, are keenly devoted to the growth of the organisation and its impacts – which makes them critical for non-profits. To strengthen their volunteer workforce management, non-profits should focus on creating brand advocates, fostering engagement, communicating effectively, identifying relationships in supporter data, and streamlining the process of giving.

Volunteers could become donors, as well as help non-profits to raise funds directly through fundraising campaigns and indirectly by communicating about the organisation’s societal footprint. Philanthropic and non-profit organisations are in the highlight of whether this resource is utilised effectively or remains neglected.

Vipul Chawla is an analyst in the development sector and incoming Master’s candidate in social work.

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