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Volunteers are a tremendous resource for charitable nonprofits. Absent volunteers, many charitable nonprofits would not be able to conduct programs, raise funds, or serve clients. The vast majority of board members who serve on charitable nonprofits’ boards are volunteers.

Did you know? 

  • According to the IRS, 85% of all charitable nonprofits have no paid staff and are run entirely by volunteers.
  • Volunteers should not receive compensation for their services (receiving it can turn them into “employees” in the eyes of the law).
  • In many 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 volunteers cannot deduct their time on their personal income taxes.
  • 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) but may need to be acknowledged on Part III, Statement of Program Service Accomplishments.

Practice Pointers for managing volunteers

Managing volunteers is similar to managing paid staff, except that volunteers don’t expect to be compensated for their services. However, they do expect to be treated with respect, trained (as needed), supervised, and provided with feedback, and rewarding experiences.

Some nonprofits only engage a few volunteers a year – others several hundred volunteers each day! The extent to which your nonprofit relies on volunteers will determine how extensive a “volunteer program” is needed at your nonprofit.

Thinking about using pro bono skilled volunteers? Prepare your nonprofit for success with pro bono and skilled volunteers using the Readiness Roadmap.

Rather than building a volunteer management program from scratch, why not collaborate with another nonprofit or tap into existing volunteer programs in your community, or “share” a volunteer program coordinator?

All the steps nonprofits take to ensure the “right fit” in the workplace for paid staff apply equally to volunteers. Many nonprofits screen volunteers (some even conduct background checks on volunteers). Orientation programs for volunteers are common, as are recognition programs that reward volunteers for their service. Many nonprofits adopt written policies that apply specifically to volunteers and find that providing volunteers with a “volunteer handbook” is useful.

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 also publishes an annual report: Volunteering in America. The economic impact of volunteer time is calculated annually (Hands-On Network). The value of volunteer time is calculated hourly and by state each year (Independent Sector).

Tools for Managing Volunteers


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