The recession that our economy is currently in has caused many people to lose their jobs, and their income. At the same time, the need for people to volunteer has increased, as many organizations can no longer afford to pay people to run programs and community based projects. It seems that every where you turn, there is a volunteer opportunity.
The problem is not in the lack of opportunities, it is in the lack of people willing to volunteer in these tough times. If people are having a hard time providing basic needs for themselves and their families, they are not likely to volunteer. They are even less likely to do so if they will be expected to provide their own transportation, have to make a long term commitment, and will be expected to travel in order to serve as a volunteer.
As the Literacy Coordinator for a local non-profit, it has come to my attention how limited the pool of volunteers is. The people who do volunteer do not stick to just one working for one organization. They may tutor for one organization on Monday and Wednesday, tutor for another organization on Tuesday and Thursday, and volunteer at the local hospice on Friday.
When there are too many opportunities and very few people, programs begin to feel the strain of not having enough people to do the work that has been done in the past. As an example, the program that I coordinate for usually serves both children up to age eight and adults; this year I am finding it necessary to put the focus more on the child literacy than the adult. It is easier to coordinate programs for children than it is for adults.
A children’s programs can be placed at one location, at fixed times, making it easier to recruit adults and high school students to work as tutors. Our adult students need for us to be flexible. They expect us to be able to schedule tutoring sessions around their busy schedules. This makes it harder to recruit volunteer tutors as they also expect us to be able to work with their schedules as well.
With the recession many working adults in our county are working two or more low paying jobs, if they are lucky to be working at all. It has been my experience that these people are less likely to volunteer to long term projects such as tutoring.
It is my opinion that the best way to recruit volunteers for a project is to have a set description of the project that includes the time commitment, where the project is located, and the days it will occur. Also, having flexibility for volunteers to choose days and times would help as well. Providing transportation or gas reimbursements if travel is necessary would also keep volunteers happy.
Unfortunately, if you’re non-profit is like the one that I work for, the last part is not a possibility. If you cannot provide the information above, or if it is work that cannot be pinned down to specifics, than finding volunteers may be hard. There are some people who are able to commit to ‘anywhere, anytime’, but they may already be volunteering with organizations that need volunteers like that, such as crisis hotlines.
The recession has brought on many challenges, not only to individuals, but also companies and non-profits. Volunteers are the way that many jobs are being done, and with the lack of people volunteering, everyone is feeling the strain.