Seven Key Messages About Strategic Volunteer Engagement

Seven key messages about strategic volunteer engagement in nonprofit organizations emerge from the most recent research around strategic engagement and investing in it. Select some of these messages and incorporate them wherever possible into your case statement and speaking points.


1. For foundations and corporations, effective volunteer engagement leverages and improves grant making and adds value,

  • When engaged effectively, volunteers augment an organization’s financial and in-kind resources, producing greater value for each dollar invested.
  • Volunteers can provide new or expanded services to increase the return on investment and add significant value to the objectives of a grant.
  • Citizen engagement can be a key indicator of the health of both the nonprofit sector and individual organizations. Knowing what to look for in assessing how a nonprofit manages its volunteer resources provides grant makers and businesses with another observation and decision-making tool.


2. For companies, effective volunteer engagement can support their business objectives and ensure a high impact experience for their corporate volunteers.

  • Employee volunteer involvement builds morale and loyalty and provides opportunities for employees to share and develop their skills and expertise.
  • Supporting volunteering can help a company leverage and align its community relations, public affairs, and financial contributions to establish (or reinforce) a brand identity, company loyalty, and community goodwill.
  • Helping to build nonprofit capacity in engaging volunteers is an important way that businesses can generate societal wealth–creating jobs, respecting the environment, and making other lasting contributions to the community.


3. For organizations, effective volunteer engagement strengthens their ability to meet critical needs and deliver services.

  • Strategically designed volunteer opportunities and well supported volunteers enhance a nonprofit’s community reputation for their ability to meet critical needs.
  • Volunteers are not “free,” but investing in robust and strategic volunteer engagement infrastructure pays off significantly (e.g., organizations certified as Service Enterprises have reported a $6 return in volunteer value for every dollar invested in volunteer engagement).
  • Increasing the diversity of who volunteers and how they volunteer provides organizations with increased access to a broader range of perspectives, skills, and resources.
  • Volunteers are donors, too. In 2013-2015, volunteers were nearly twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers[1].


4. Effective volunteer engagement is linked to stronger, more sustainable,and more efficient organizations as a whole.[2]

  • All organizational capacities are significantly stronger for nonprofits with an effective volunteer engagement infrastructure.
  • Organizations that fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills towards accomplishing their mission are significantly more adaptable, sustainable, and capable of going to scale.
  • Organizations that engage volunteers are equally as effective as their peers without volunteers, but at almost half the median budget.


5. Effective volunteer engagement occurs when there is strong organizational and community infrastructure.

  • The organization’s leadership (i.e., board, executive staff, and funders) must consider support of the volunteer infrastructure to be as important as any other organizational resource.
  • Having a strategic volunteer engagement model requires strong and well-developed human resources management practices[3]. The ability to engage and retain increasingly diverse volunteers requires highly competent leadership.


6. Effective volunteer involvement occurs when staff and board members are trained and supported.

  • Corporate and community volunteers who understand how to work with a nonprofit and what to expect in return are more willing to share their expertise and time.
  • Training helps board members – many of whom are corporate and philanthropic leaders – and executive staff members to understand that well-supported volunteers can increase an organization’s service and fundraising capacity.
  • Training of volunteers and of the staff who support them is vital to successful volunteer engagement models.


7. Effective volunteer involvement contributes to maintaining a civil society.

  • Grant makers, government, and business can meet their community involvement goals by supporting the structures and systems that enable more effective volunteering.
  • When people know how to support their community, when it is easy for them to get involved, and when their experience is meaningful, they are more likely to continue volunteering.
[1]Corporation for National & Community Service, “Volunteering and Civic Life in America,”
[2]TCC Group, “’Positive Deviants’ in Volunteerism and Service: Research Summary,”
[3]TCC Group, “’Positive Deviants’ in Volunteerism and Service: Research Summary,”