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Brian J Zubek
NPM 520
Paper #2 – Volunteer Investment
I hereby affirm that I have neither given, nor received, help on this exam, paper, or assignment. -

Volunteer Investment: How should organizational resources be used on, or for, volunteers
and volunteer management?

PART I: Overview

Volunteerism is a huge industry that encompasses many sectors ranging from the typical mom
and pop style nonprofit, to government and even the public sector. Volunteers can be utilized in
community centers, hospitals, schools, retirement homes, mental health facilities, environmental
organizations, libraries, museums, visitor bureaus, political organizations, houses of worship,
youth clubs, animal shelters and music or sports organizations just to name a few. Volunteers
may fill basic needs: physical labor for specific tasks such as planting trees or gardening,
clearing a field for a new park or city street clean up. Or they may dedicate their time to
relational needs in a big-brother or nursing-home-companion type role. As nonprofits budgets
continue to tighten as a result of other industry constrictions such as lower profit margins in the
private sector and reductions in government spending, nonprofits and other organizations are
seeking more specialized volunteers with specific knowledge, skills, abilities and other
characteristics (KSAOC’s) to complete tasks integral to the organizations survival. A number of
questions arise as the line between paid staff and volunteer positions begin to blur. What
resources are appropriate to commit to volunteer recruitment and training? What are best

practices to retain volunteers who are deemed integral? What are the hidden costs of volunteers,
and how can these costs be tracked or monitored to ensure a volunteer position is a more
economical choice for an organization? These questions and more will be examined in the
following segments.


Ligature Research and Analysis: Volunteer Investment, Recruiting, & Retaining

Volunteers assist employers in meeting their organizations’ mission and become an important
part of strategic human resources management and planning. Like paid staff, volunteers are the
human resources of an agency. Care must be given to their management and how those resources
will be used to best contribute to the mission of the organization. It is also critical to evaluate
how organizational resources are applied to the volunteers themselves in regards to training,
retention, and the added liabilities of using volunteer resources. According to the most recent
statistics from the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 62.6 million
Americans, or 25.4 percent of the adult population, gave 7.7 billion hours of volunteer service,
worth $173 billion, in 2013. With an estimated value of $23.07 per service hour, we can see why
volunteer positions look so attractive when aiming to fulfill organizational missions at the lowest
cost possible.
Volunteers who appear to be low cost, can provide specialized skills the core staff may lack.
They provide extra staff in peak load periods or during staff transitions and emergencies. They
allow agencies to expand levels of service despite budgetary limitations, and can be good for
public relations. Even public agencies use volunteers to serve on task forces, oversee and instruct
recreational programs, and serve as advocates for community causes. They can work as

firefighters, auxiliary police officers, assistants at senior centers, file clerks and office workers,
hospital or nursing home attendants, in community clean-up campaigns, as teaching assistants or
museum guides. Volunteers also participate in community programs promoting public safety,
providing services for the homeless or disabled, in AIDS prevention, cancer research and other
health initiatives. Promising as the use of volunteers may be, agencies must be aware that there
are costs associated with volunteer programs. Administrative responsibilities are increased
because agencies must keep records and extend liabilities insurance coverage to their volunteer
base. Workers’ compensation policies must also extend to volunteers. Anyone acting on behalf
of an organization can put others at risk or can be at risk. Also, for better or worse, a volunteer
could have great impact on an organization’s brand image that may have been built with care
over decades. One false move, misstep or mismanagement error of a volunteer could have lasting
impact on an organization. Volunteers are not inherently more or less likely to have accidents or
make mistakes than paid staff, however the organization is obligated to take all the necessary
steps to protect its clients, paid and unpaid staff, and the volunteer themselves. This means
volunteers need to be screened for possessing the appropriate qualifications, and they need to be
trained – all added administrative costs to an organization. For example, individuals who exhibit
short tempers or low frustration levels may not be a good fit for direct services with children,
seniors, or a disabled population. This doesn’t mean however the individual may not care deeply
about these populations and have highly sought after KSAOC’s that would be beneficial to the
organization’s mission. It just means that human resource managers must adequately pair these
individuals with tasks best suited for the specific skill sets or compensate a lack of skills with
specialized training. (Pynes)

Imagine a small nonprofit organization that helps young adults transition out from the foster
care system is struggling with its bookkeeping. Looking for mentors, they put out a call for
volunteers to the community. A 45 year CFP and accountant named Ralph sees the ad and
decides to volunteer with the organization. Ralph lost his mother at a young age and his dad
worked hard to provide for him, but often left Ralph with his aunt while he was away on sales
trips. Ralph knows his father worked hard to provide for him but wished his dad was around
more when he was growing up. Ralph never had children of his own but thought it must be very
hard for young people who had no parents at all. The organization eager for new volunteers
failed to ask Ralf what he did for a living or assess what skills and experiences Ralph might
bring to the organization. They quickly matched him with a new mentee. There was no volunteer
orientation or other training, and Ralph struggled during his first few weeks with the
organization. Ralph quickly realized that he deeply cares for the young people in the
organization but that he lacked the relational skills to connect with his mentee personally. After a
few months he fizzles out and decides the opportunity wasn’t the right fit for him. A few months
later Ralph found a new organization that helps foster children and has been balancing their
books and handling payroll for them for the past three years. The administrative cost of
recruiting Ralph was low but the organization does pay on average $245 per mentor for a
required background check and the average mentor tenure is currently less than eight months.
This type of situation happens all too often in the volunteer world. Perhaps with proper training
and support Ralph could have been a more successful mentor. A cost-benefit analysis would
have to be done for the particular organization to see if training previously inexperienced
mentors would be the right approach for organizational long term success. If deemed this would
not be the most economical approach, then perhaps a job or role analysis should be completed

and better care would be needed to recruit volunteers who already obtain desirable KSAOC’s for
the particular position. In this case, if the organization had better vetted Ralph or done an
assessment of what KSAOS’s Ralph could have offered, perhaps they would have found that
Ralph’s skills as a CFP and accountant were a more valuable resource to the organization.
Before recruitment ever begins, it’s important to identify the types of volunteers needed or the
specific skills and competencies required (Pynes). Does the volunteer need clerical skills? Will
they be expected to interact with large groups of people? Are special teaching certifications
needed? Are assignments task-oriented or are they longer-term commitments, such as coaching a
sports team or mentoring a student? What are the particular skills integral to the position? What
does the pool of available applicants have to offer? These questions will take human resource
managers ample time to dissect and review, each volunteer will need ample orientation and
training related to their specific assignments on how the organization expects them to be
completed; all which has an associated cost to fill the volunteer position. Since this training and
time investment is an organizational resource, organizations need to weigh the anticipated return
on investment (ROI) for each volunteer. Once those resources are consumed, organizations
would be wise to take the necessary steps to retain such volunteers who become both integral and
successful in their roles.
One out of three volunteers does not return on a year over year basis (Corp for National &
Community Service 2003) allowing 1/3 of resources to be spent on volunteers who will walk out
the door each year. More recent data shows this retention rate continues to drop. One might
hypothesize that as more millennials enter the work force and volunteer fields that the same
shifts in human resources management in for-profit industry must be applied to the volunteer
realm if organizations are to retain this high-tech, highly relational, but easily bored generation.

Forty years ago, the typical volunteer profile was that of a middle-aged married female who had
regular time to commit to an organization’s work. The 21st century volunteer seeks “short-term
assignments with a high level of personal reward” (Grantmaker). Today’s volunteers want to see
a change happen as quickly as possible as a direct result of their contributions and are less likely
to commit over time on a consistent basis – all increasing volunteer management and associated
organizational costs.
The key for motivating and retaining volunteers is finding the best employee-position match.
Research has shown that job satisfaction plays a critical role in understanding the commitment to
volunteer. It is necessary to design volunteer tasks so they are enriching. Autonomy, job
involvement, and feedback from the work itself were strong predictors of organizational
commitment. Volunteer turnover, which usually comes with a high associated monetary and
possibly missionary cost to the organization, can be reduced when volunteers receive pre-service
and in-service training and also when they are assigned both challenging and rewarding tasks.
The second key is to understand volunteer motivation. While it can be assumed there is some
level of draw to the organizational mission, the reality is volunteer motivation is a multifaceted
concept. Diverse individuals intersect and offer their own time and resources for a variety of
reasons. Finding out the reasons a person is willing to part with their time and volunteer at your
organization is an important tool to keeping the volunteer’s satisfaction level high so that a high
level of donated work and time is given in return. Also, this can help an organization gauge if
they have the particular resource a potential volunteer is looking for. If the exchange is mutually
beneficial, then both parties can prosper. (GuideStar)

While some volunteers may want to bring their expertise to your group be it in marketing,
finance, a certain people skill or certification, other volunteers might be actually looking for skill
development. Perhaps they have one skill that would be valuable to your organization but have
little knowledge in another area. Let’s revisit the story of Ralph the CFP. Perhaps Ralph is
seeking a promotion to management at his office however he has little experience actually
delegating tasks and training others. Perhaps an organization in need of financial assistance could
supplement Ralph while he volunteers in the finance department by sending him to a leadership
training that was already scheduled for the staff and allow him to lead and train a small group of
volunteers who are looking to improve their finance and accounting skills. Here the organization
benefits and the costs of sending Ralph to the prescheduled training are minimal. Also the value
of Ralph’s work is high to the organization and a second group of volunteers benefits from the
partnership while also bringing their own KSAOC’s to the organization.
Some volunteers are looking for personal growth. Like Ralph, they would like to broaden
their horizons and cultivate new interests. Others will use their volunteering experience to help
aid them in making other career or education related decisions. Some volunteers are looking for
a challenge. Other are looking for personal connection, be it with other volunteers, staff or a
particular client base. Some volunteers are looking for recognition of service from a simple
“thank you” to highlighting the volunteer in a newsletter, article or social media posting. Others
still might be looking for tangible rewards, which may be harder for organizations to offer but
with creative thinking are not out of the realm of possibilities.

“Retaining volunteers is both an indicator of and a key to success in volunteer
management. When volunteers keep coming back, it is a sign that the program is being
managed in a reasonable way. The return of trained and seasoned volunteers gives the

Volunteer Program Manager more time to be creative and effective in carrying out the
At its simplest level, volunteer retention is purely a matter of making volunteers feel
good about their assignment and themselves. If the experience is satisfying and
rewarding, the volunteers will continue to want to participate. This is even more likely to
be true if the assigned task boosts the volunteer's self-esteem. When this experience
pervades the volunteer program, a positive, enthusiastic climate is created which, in turn,
encourages people to continue to volunteer.” (Lynch)

Gary Chapman and Paul White actually define five distinct languages of workplace
appreciation in their book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. Here, they explore
how the five ‘Love Languages’ apply to the everyday worker. Employees and volunteers can be
appreciated by Words of Affirmation, Tangible Gifts, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and lastly
Physical Touch – a less predominate category due to obvious restrictions of appropriateness
depending on the particular work setting, but in this sense it is referring to a hand shake or a
“high-five” over a job well done. Understanding why a volunteer chooses to spend his or her
time with you in the first place paired with understanding their individual needs for appreciation
can help organizations retain the volunteers they are investing in.
The most common form of volunteer appreciation is a large reception to honor volunteers and
their service. This can be both expensive and of little value when you see that an event of this
type largely lacks most of the elements of the five Work Appreciation languages. These events
lack individual attention, make general words of affirmation feel like they lack sincerity or at
least direction, and even in the case of tangible gifts, resources could be better spent on
individual volunteers who actually speak that particular language. A personal letter from the

CEO or a cup of coffee with a staff manager might go much farther, use up less overall
resources, and offer a higher individualized ROI when working to retain the 21st century


Ligature Research and Analysis: Policy Implications

As mentioned previously, organizations must extend workers compensation and liability
coverages to their volunteer base. The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 does provide immunity
from lawsuits filed against a nonprofit’s volunteer where the claim is that he or she carelessly
injured another in the course of helping the nonprofit (although gross negligence is not covered
and the definition of what is ‘careless’ and what is ‘gross negligence’ is very grey.) The act does
not provide immunity however to the organization itself; the law applies only to uncompensated
volunteers. Since this leaves the organization liable for any damages, organizations must take
measures to protect themselves and their assets.
What can happen? Here are some claims scenarios culled from over 20 years of data at
the Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group (sourced from Hewitt)

A volunteer on agency business ran a stop sign and hit a vehicle whose driver wound
up paralyzed from the neck down. The volunteer's own personal coverage had lapsed,
so the agency's auto coverage became primary and the claim was settled for the
$2,000,000 in available limits.

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