Did you know?

  • The vast majority of charitable nonprofits are governed by a volunteer board of directors.
  • According to the IRS, 85% of all charitable nonprofits have no paid staff and are run entirely by volunteers.
  • Volunteers are actually not entitled to compensation (and receiving it can turn them into employees in the eyes of the law).
  • In most states volunteers are not covered by workers' compensation insurance which is why some nonprofits elect to purchase "volunteer accident insurance."
  • Volunteer time has value!
  • But, for purposes of a nonprofit's annual report to the IRS, Form 990, volunteer time is NOT reported as a contribution. See also FASB Accounting Standards 116.

Best practices for managing volunteers:

Volunteers should be screened prior to being selected for service, oriented, trained, supervised, and evaluated, especially when they are working with vulnerable individuals or driving vehicles, and they should be treated fairly and given guidance on policies and procedures that apply to their service as volunteers to the nonprofit. Many nonprofits find that providing volunteers with a handbook is helpful. A great example is this excerpt from the policies and procedures of the National Wildlife Foundation.

Rather than building a volunteer management program from scratch, why not collaborate with another nonprofit or tap into existing programs? The HandsOn Network offers database solutions for volunteer management and local volunteer centers are excellent resources for nonprofits and prospective volunteers alike. Find a volunteer center in your state. VolunteerMatch offers resources to boost your nonprofit's volunteer program. Managing volunteers requires as much experience and expertise as managing paid staff.

What about skilled professionals offering assistance pro bono?

Pro bono engagements can be helpful to address longer term projects or projects requiring specific expertise. Learn how your nonprofit can be "powered by pro bono" through the TapRoot Foundation's resources and the book, Powered by Pro Bono. Catchafire can help assess needs, find the right pro bono expertise, and ensure that the pro bono engagement is a positive experience for both nonprofit and volunteer.

Data on volunteers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an annual report sharing data on the number and demographics of Americans volunteering in their communities. The Corporation for National & Community Service publishes an annual report: Volunteering in America. The value of volunteer time is calculated annually by Independent Sector. 

More resources for managing volunteers: