June 13, 2024

Episode #114: Volunteerism Statistics for 2024: Insights from Our Latest Research – Part 2

In this episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast, Tobi Johnson discusses the findings from the Volunteer Management Progress Report. This is part two of a two-part series focusing on volunteerism statistics for 2024, offering insights on the internal support within organizations for those leading volunteers.  

Tobi highlights the importance of leadership support, the challenges faced by volunteer managers, and the correlation between leadership backing and volunteer manager job satisfaction and retention. The episode emphasizes the need for a pro-volunteer culture to boost organizational sustainability and community engagement. 

Volunteerism Statistics 2024 – Episode Highlights

  • [00:23] – Recap of Part 1: Volunteerism Statistics for 2024 
  • [03:12] – Accessing the Volunteer Management Progress Report 
  • [05:00] – Focus on Internal Support and Leadership 
  • [08:28] – Internal Support for Volunteer Strategy 
  • [19:23] – Lack of Internal Support as a Barrier 
  • [26:33] – Volunteer Manager Satisfaction and Leadership Support

Volunteerism Statistics 2024 – Quotes from the Episode

“Volunteers, especially traditional volunteers, are giving time and talent week in, week out; in my mind, they are major donors. One and the same.” 

“We found that the level of leadership support is strongly correlated with the level of job satisfaction in volunteer administrators. if you’re a leader in a nonprofit organization, you may have more influence than you think.” 

About the Show

Nonprofit leadership author, trainer, consultant, and volunteer management expert Tobi Johnson shares weekly tips to help charities build, grow, and scale exceptional volunteer teams. Discover how your nonprofit can effectively coordinate volunteers who are reliable, equipped, and ready to help you bring about BIG change for the better.

If you’re ready to ditch the stress and harness the power of people to fuel your good work, you’re in exactly the right place!

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Episode #114 Transcript: Volunteerism Statistics for 2024: Insights from Our Latest Research – Part 2

Tobi Johnson: Well, hey everybody, welcome to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and I am looking forward today to giving you more insights on our volunteer management progress report. This is part two of a two-part podcast series, volunteerism statistics for 2024 insights from our latest research. 

So, we’re kicking off part two with a discussion of how the culture of volunteerism looks inside our organization, specifically the support for those who lead volunteers. If you’ll remember last week, I kicked off this series on volunteerism statistics and shared some of the results from our recently published volunteer management progress report survey, where I focused on volunteer capacity. 

Do we have enough volunteers? What’s the trend towards volunteer capacity? Where are we finding ourselves right now? You know, I talked about in that episode, the top challenges for leaders of volunteers related to volunteer capacity. I talked about active volunteer trends, the numbers of active volunteers, volunteer organizations are seeing right now and and over the past few years, also those trends in monthly volunteer hours contributed what’s been happening in the past few years, including last year, and the impact of COVID on volunteer capacity and what organizations are telling us about whether or not COVID has had an impact, increased, decreased, volunteer roles have stayed the same. 

We checked out that in our last episode, and then I also talk about the percentage of volunteer roles filled. We’re looking at the gap. How many roles do we still need filled? And then the perceptions of organizational progress towards goals. So, it was a jam-packed episode, lots of statistics, volunteerism statistics to share that we gathered through our survey. 

As I mentioned in part one, we conduct this survey every fall and we’ve been doing it for nine years straight, so it’s pretty cool because we start to be able to track trends and really share with folks how our field is evolving. If you’re interested in looking at and listening to Volunteer Nation episode 113, which was the previous one, Volunteerism Statistics for 2024 Insights from our Latest Research Part 1. 

If you go to the show notes, you can click on that link or just look in our library and you’ll see it from last week. Also just want to remind everybody that you can order your complimentary copy of the Volunteer Management Progress Report. You just need to go to volpro.net, and at the top of the homepage, if you just click on Research, you’ll go to that report page. 

And we have all of the reports listed for the last nine years. So, you’ll need to opt in to get this year’s report, but there are also links to download directly all of our past nine years of reports. And This year I had a few comments from folks asking us, why haven’t you collected, or why didn’t you collect volunteer salary information this year? 

And I’ll tell you, we don’t collect it every year. Each year we decide what specific things we’re going to explore based on what’s happening in the field. And volunteer manager strategy, or I’m sorry, volunteer management salaries don’t change that much year over year. So, we don’t track every year because we only have a limited number of questions we can really ask. 

The survey is quite long already. It’s about anywhere from 35 to 45 questions, so we’re asking in people’s time. Usually, we don’t ask about salary every year, but if you want salary data for leaders of volunteers. Check out our volunteer management progress report for 2023 and you can download that on that page on our website and just scroll down a little bit below the opt in for this year’s report and you’ll find a link to that report and you can find salary information and I can guarantee it has not changed that much between last year and this year. 

In this episode, I’m going to focus a little bit more on internal support, workforce, and leadership. After all, this year’s Volunteer Management Progress Report is on leadership and the workforce. It is our leadership and workforce edition. And so, you know, I want to share some volunteerism statistics that are related to, you know, what’s going on with the folks who are supporting volunteers that are making volunteerism happen inside our organizations and in our communities. 

And there’s some troubling statistics that I want to share. That I think we really need to start to pay attention to, you know, we are in a very interesting time in the nonprofit sector. There are a lot of stresses on us as a field. And I feel like when we are not able to fully support the volunteer efforts inside our organizations, our community support, our level of individual donations and financial support tends to start to decrease as well. 

It becomes sort of a bit of a death spiral. And so, I want us to think about how we can change that. perspective a little bit. When budgets need to be cut, often it’s the volunteer manager’s budget or the volunteer manager themselves who is furloughed or the budget’s cut, et cetera, and those investment dollars start to go away. 

And what makes it really difficult is, you know, the thing that’s going to pull the nonprofit out of this downward spiral of lack of sustainability is investment in the community, getting the community more involved in your organization, not less, because a lot of the donations and financial support that really drives our nonprofits comes from individual donors and volunteers and community supporters are the ones that bring those donations in, whether they’re, they’re making a contribution personally or they’re acting as an ambassador or they’re doing actual fundraising. 

Or when you’re out looking for grants, volunteer time is included as an in-kind resource that you are using in your grant proposals to show that you have community support and show that you’re matching the investment that the funder is making into your organization.  

So there’s so many reasons why if we cut volunteerism and we start to really limit the way we’re supporting volunteerism inside our organizations, we start to see that impacting the amount of donations, and in turn we start to cut more, and in turn we start to see fewer financial, less financial support, and as I said, it becomes this death spiral, so it’s not really the wisest thing to do. In our report this year, I want to talk about some volunteerism statistics that we gathered around this internal support, where volunteer managers are at, what they’re feeling about their work, and a little bit about the of the nonprofit workforce shortage crisis that we find ourselves in this year and last year. 

And so, let’s start with one of my big findings of the volunteerism statistics that we collected for our report and for our research around internal support. And we are finding our first finding I want to cover, and I’m going to talk about three key findings today. The first one is that internal support for volunteer strategy is lukewarm. 

It’s lukewarm and it’s a mixed bag. You know, one of the biggest threats to a thriving volunteer program may come from within our own organizations, not the outside world. That’s what the finding that I walked away with when I looked at these data and I’ll share some of these with you. And that’s kind of sad, really, because if you think about it, our biggest challenges as non-profit staffers should not come from within our own organizations. 

They should be the challenges that society and community have put in front of us for us to take on the job of solving in terms of our missions. We need to really pay close attention to this because we want to make sure that all our staff are equipped and ready and feel supported so they can get their job done because it’s not easy work. 

I mean, I worked for 25 years in nonprofits before I started consulting and the work is not easy. The solutions that we’re trying to come up with and the problems that we work on are not simple problems to solve. We’ve got to make sure that our workforce feels supported. like they are supported, feel like they are excited about their work. 

And, you know, in a post COVID world where we’re all building back from a massive collective trauma, we’re all finding ourselves a little bit tired as well. So, this wellness and focus on support and so that our workforce can thrive is going to have an immediate effect also on our volunteers and on the community and on our sustainability. 

So, it is a high priority in my mind. So, you know, the ability to form a strong organizational vision and nurture a pro volunteer culture, these are foundations for high impact community engagement. Aligning our goals and activities across the organization can ensure that everyone is rowing together and that the true promise of volunteerism is met. 

But if that support and vision isn’t there from leadership, it’s very hard to pull off as a middle manager, like a volunteer manager or volunteer even at a director level or a volunteer coordinator, their job isn’t to ensure you have a positive, um, your organization has a positive culture. That’s the job of leadership and specifically executive leadership. 

So, we asked in the survey this year, how would you rate the leadership team at your organization for the level of support you receive for volunteer initiatives? The support is really around their volunteer initiatives and the results breakdown was as follows. We had about 26 percent, 26. 2 percent of folks rate their leadership team with five stars, which is the best you could do. We gave them one through five stars, sort of like an Amazon rating, right? One to five stars. So, five stars, about one in four, so 26. 2 percent said, yeah, I would rate our leadership with a five-star rating. Another 35. 6%, another third rated them four stars, which isn’t bad. You know, if you think about, you’re going on Amazon and shopping, you might buy some stuff that has a four-star rating, but would you buy anything with a three-star rating? You would be very wary to do so. And we had 23. 1 percent of respondents rate their leadership team with a three-star rating. 

We also had another 10%, another one in 10, two stars, and a 4. 7 or 5, about 5 percent on a one star. So, the three stars to, you know, 23, 33, 40%, about 40 percent of respondents, that’s two out of five, said that they would give their leadership team a three-star rating or below. That’s a problem. Because the work you do, if you’re a volunteer manager, is so vital to your organization’s success. And volunteerism doesn’t happen by accident. People often think, you know, when we see our volunteerism statistics, what’s the rate of volunteering going on in the world? We get those statistics and I think the world or whoever seems to think that Okay, we get these statistics. 

People are volunteering or they’re not volunteering. And the reasons are the community or a society or the volunteer. The reasons are never about management. We don’t go to the management. Is there an effective management system in place? Well, I would make the case that part of the reason people don’t volunteer is because the systems that are set up to include them are not supportive, not pro volunteer, maybe overly bureaucratic. 

There’s, the list goes on. So, that has to do with management and vision and alignment. That has little to do with volunteering or society or what’s going on with the economy. So we have to own that, I think, and so when I see statistics like these, you know, it gives me pause and I think to myself, okay, we’ve got some work to do here to create a cultures in our organizations that are pro volunteer and that are very supportive of the volunteer initiatives because they’re so important. 

So, we asked another question as well that I thought you might be interested in. How would you rate the level of buy in from coworkers? So, we talked, we asked about leadership teams, we also asked about coworkers for involving volunteers in their own departments or programs. We asked people to skip this if they didn’t place volunteers in other departments in their organization. 

The average rating for coworkers is about an average of 3. 5 stars, which was slightly lower than the average leadership support rating, which is a little bit higher. Let me give you the breakdown. So, 5 stars, 18. 4%. So, about, 2 out of 5., 4 stars, or I’m sorry, 18 percent is 20%, 1 out of 5, not 2 out of 5. 

My math, I’m doing math on the fly here, gang. Okay, the, the second, for 4 stars, it was 31%, so about 3. third, a third of respondents said rated their coworkers buy in as four stars. Another 32. 7 percent rated their coworkers as three stars. So that’s another one third, about a third. Then two stars was 14. 1 percent and one star was 3.1%. And so, for coworkers, we’re seeing, at three stars or below, we’re seeing about a 32%, let’s see, 46, 40, about 50%, nearly, a little bit, a little, about 48 percent that were three stars and below, three stars and below. So, we’re looking at the overall average was a little bit, slightly lower than the leadership support rating, as I mentioned, but we’re, we’re seeing, you know, almost say 45, about 45%. 

45% of respondents rated their coworkers with a three star or below 45% that’s a big percentage gang. That’s a big percentage. That’s a problem. So that’s why I say it’s not a good look. If our biggest challenge comes from inside our own organizations, that’s not okay. I’m calling it out here and I’m giving a little tough love right now and I hope you’re with me. 

Just stick with me on this. I’ve got some other information for you, but you know. It’s sobering, I will say, at the very least. Now, another thing I checked out was I cross tabbed the ratings of leadership support with the ratings of coworker support, just to see if there’s any correlation. Perhaps not surprising, we found that the higher ratings of support from leadership strongly correlated with higher support ratings for coworker support. 

That suggests that leadership’s influence over the organizational culture around volunteer involvement is there, is clear, is present. So, if the leadership, if leadership, leadership team, is behind the volunteer effort, is aligning and helping the volunteer department or volunteer manager or coordinator align their work with the organization’s work, and it’s clear that that their work is essential, then the rest of the staff fall in line and understand that. 

I think it’s really important for volunteer involving organizations that want to level up their volunteer involvement to understand this. That your staff across the board need to hear from you as the executive director or leadership person on the leadership team that volunteerism is important. 

And then it really, people really need to attend to it, you know, whether it’s just saying hi to volunteers in the hall, you know, your job may not be as a nonprofit staffer may not be to manage volunteers, but it’s everybody’s job to be cordial, to be helpful, etc. I think we would say the same if we invited a major donor into our organization, we would say it’s everybody’s job to make that major donor feel welcome. 

And volunteers, especially traditional volunteers, are giving time and talent week in, week out, in my mind, are major donors. They are major donors, one and the same. So that’s a little bit about finding volunteerism statistics, finding number one, internal support for the volunteer strategy is lukewarm. Now in some organizations, it’s fantastic. 

We had people giving their coworkers and their leaders five-star ratings and congratulations. I am so happy for you because I would imagine that your outcomes are a little bit better too, because it’s about management. Volunteerism results and impact happens because of good management. That’s why. And so, we’ve got to make sure those supports, and that culture is there. 

All right, let’s talk about finding number two of my volunteerism statistics that we gathered from our volunteer management progress report. And it is that lack of internal support is a clear barrier to success. Now, I’ve already said that, but I’m going to reinforce it a little bit here. 

So, first off, we found that the support was lacking. Second, it is considered a barrier to success by leaders and volunteers. I’m not just saying that here. For our ninth year, as I mentioned, in part one of this series, we asked our, biggest question, biggest challenge question, which we asked specifically, we ask, what’s your number one biggest volunteer management challenge right now? 

Please be as detailed as possible. And we gather open-ended insights on volunteer management. barriers for leaders of volunteers. Now, sometimes people will give us a laundry list. We ask for one and we will count the first thing they mention because we feel like that’s most top of mind, but most people will share a single big challenge they have and we will go through and hand code Every one of those responses, and I did that this year myself, and I had about 700 comments that I read through and hand coded and categorized them. 

And as you remember, in part one, I shared our top two challenges based on my coding, number one, and my qualitative analysis. So, number one was recruitment. 31.3% mentioned that recruiting volunteers was a top challenge. And it had dropped only two percentage points from the year before. So specifically, folks were challenged with recruiting volunteers for traditional ongoing roles that are in person. 

And folks were really focused on diversifying their volunteer. Teams. Some comments focused on that. The second top challenge was retention. 12.3% mentioned retaining volunteers as a top challenge and they noted the waning volunteer commitment, follow through, no shows, shifts, sign ups, or the successful transition from training to service as challenges and barriers for them. 

And last year, in last year’s report, retention didn’t even show up. So, it is definitely on the rise as a challenge. Now today I want to talk about a third challenge. This was the third-place challenge that was shared by respondents, was respect, support, and buy in. And about 10.7% of respondents of our respondents mentioned this as a top challenge for them. 

It is a barrier to their success. So about one out of every ten respondents. So, we want to make sure that we are really clear about whether this is okay. Because if it’s stopping people from getting their work done and being effective, then it’s something that needs addressing, right? If we’re not working together towards our mission, if we’re working at odds, then our organization simply cannot be as effective as it could be if we were. This is sort of management 101 gang alignment across an organization, people rowing together. It’s common sense that we need to do that to get to our destination more quickly. And if you have staff who are working at odds, some staff who are charged with bringing the community in and making sure that they are participating and contributing. 

And you have other staff who are working against this and saying, well, I don’t want those people in the community. You’ve got a challenge and a problem. And this is a challenge and problem that is the full responsibility of leadership to solve. Now, certainly the volunteer management and other staff. 

manager and other staff can get involved and advise on this and can work towards, but the casting the vision, casting sort of the view or the future state that the organization wants to get to when it comes to volunteer engagement is firmly in the seat of leadership. That’s what executive leadership, that’s one of their key jobs. 

And so, I want us to start to have conversations inside our organizations, open, candid, and proactive and productive conversations about this, about how are we going to align so that our organization can be sustainable. That’s the big question here. That’s the, that’s the big, you know, million-dollar question. 

We are in a period of time that is very difficult for our nonprofit organizations. And if we’re not working together and the, the, and we’re working against enemies within, and I’m not going to enemies in quote air quotes, we’re not really enemies, but we’re for working in conflict. We’re not working together. 

We’re not aligned. That’s something within our locus of control. That’s not about the economy. That’s not about volunteer preferences. or whether people want to volunteer. It’s not about what happened during COVID. It’s about our organizational culture. And that’s something we have full control over if we wish to take it on. 

Right? So, I’m hoping the wish to take it on will, will emerge based on some of these volunteerism statistics. So, let’s take a pause for a quick break from my review of key volunteerism statistics and trends from our recent report. When we get back, I’m going to share one more finding that Gives us a little bit of hope because I’ve been giving you some tough love right now. I want to give us a little bit of hope. All right, so stick with me. Come back and I’ll see you after the break.  

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Okay, we’re back with my review of our, some key volunteerism statistics and trends from our recent volunteer management progress report survey. I am super excited about sharing some of these key takeaways. 

I think they point out some things that we need to improve in our field, as I spoke about prior to the break, but I want to leave us with my final volunteerism statistic finding. Number three, which is that volunteer management or volunteer, excuse me, volunteer manager satisfaction and intent to stay is directly linked to leadership support. 

Now I was making that case before the break, but I want to double down on this for a minute because it’s, it’s an area of hope. We found that the level of leadership support is strongly correlated with the level of job satisfaction in volunteer administrators. The higher the star rating, the higher the level of job satisfaction. 

In fact, nearly 9 in 10, 84.9% of those who gave their leaders a five-star rating were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. By comparison, only 17.2% of those who gave their leaders a one-star rating felt satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. There’s a very strong correlation here. 

Now it’s probably not surprising, it’s probably, it’s probably obvious, right? But I think it really points to the fact if you’re a leader in a nonprofit organization that you may have more influence than you think. So, that’s the good news, right? Similarly, the job satisfaction of volunteer managers also correlated with the intent to stay working for their organization over the next three years. 

If folks were satisfied with their jobs, they were more likely to stay with their current employer. Four out of five, 85. 0. 3 percent of volunteer managers who gave their leaders a five-star rating agreed or strongly agreed they would remain working at their organizations. By comparison, only 5. 9 percent of those who gave their leaders a one-star rating agreed that they would remain with their employer, and none of those folks strongly agreed they would remain with their employer. 

So, we have some correlations here. Number one, leadership support. Leadership support correlated with higher level of job satisfaction. Job satisfaction correlated with an intent to stay working with the organization. Now, why does that matter, especially now? Well, we’ve got a major Nonprofit workforce shortage going on right now. 

Last year, the National Council on Nonprofits here in the U. S. published a report called the 2023 workforce survey results. And in this report, they called out a nonprofit workforce shortage crisis. And they offered up some statistics that I want to share with you. And in the show notes, I’ll link to this report if you want to look at it. 

Nearly three out of four nonprofits, 74.6% completed the survey and reported job vacancies. So, three out of four nonprofits across the U. S. are experiencing job vacancies. Now I don’t have data for other countries, but I suspect it may be similar because we’re often more alike than different around the world. 

More than half. of nonprofits, 51.7% reported that they have more vacancies now than they did before the COVID 19 pandemic. And nearly 3 out of 10, 28.1% have longer waiting lists for services. And in fact, in this report, they also talk about the fact that some have shut down services. So, the, the non-profit jobs that they’re speaking of, the, the majority that were, are most commonly unfilled are the ones that where the workers interact with the public most, which that’s really impacting the work of nonprofits and our interface with the public, right? 

And 7 out of 10, 70.5% anticipated charitable giving to decrease or remain flat and 68.7% anticipated the number of donors to decrease or remain unchanged. So, when we look at our volunteer management. managers, coordinators, directors, administrators, whatever job title you use to describe the leader of volunteers, leaders of volunteers. 

We have many of them around the world that different titles we use. Their work is so vital to our organizations that I think we have to, as leadership, think about if you’re a leader who’s listening, think about the support that you’re providing that person because when volunteer managers lead, if they are, have personal relationships with volunteers, when they leave an organization, that organization sometimes experiences a drain in volunteer talent as well. 

Especially if those relationships are very close, if that social capital is strong. Sometimes that happens. The other thing that happens is when a volunteer manager who’s been around for a while, there’s a lot of wisdom that grows. about how the understanding of the community at large, understand volunteers and how they can be effective. 

When that person leaves, a lot of that institutional knowledge leaves as well. And so, it can have a huge impact on nonprofits. It’s given the workforce a shortage as well as these facts around. are leaders of volunteers. It really behooves organizations to support these people because they are the connective tissue between your organization and the community at large. 

Development staff is as well, of course, your folks who are doing fundraising, volunteerism, and volunteer managers are even more connected to your community because they’re seeing people on a regular basis if you do face to face volunteering. If you think about donors, most often your individual donors, your development staff are not meeting them on a regular basis, they’re not working with them side by side, they’re not developing relationships unless they’re a major donor and they’re being cultivated. 

The relationships between volunteer managers and volunteers oftentimes are stronger. And between your other staff who are supervising volunteers, if it, if they’re doing it well. It’s always a caveat here, if they’re doing it well. And so, my final point here based on these volunteerism statistics that we’ve gathered, you know, thinking about what this means for our sector and for nonprofits in general and our sustainability as a big part of the workforce in the United States, but around the world, we’re a large, we contribute to the GDP of our country here. It’s a large workforce.  

I want to make sure we’re supporting that workforce, especially when there are workforce shortages. And I believe that investment in volunteer infrastructure is really crucial to maintaining organizational stability and a robust donor base. 

You know, now and into the future. Volunteerism can help organizations remain sustainable in so many ways. Obviously, additional workforce, but also deeper connections with the community and from those deeper connections can also result in more financial support. And so, this isn’t something we should be ignoring right now. 

This data is important to understand and to do something about. So, I hope you’ve enjoyed, I guess enjoyed may not be the word because these are sobering statistics, however, I hope it’s giving you some hope that people do have in their hands, especially leadership has in their hands, the potential to make change happen inside their organization. 

And to make sure that the community is involved in every step of their recovery. So, with that, I’m going to leave you. Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. If you really liked it, please share it with a friend or colleague who might need a little inspiration. Tomorrow I am heading to England to the UK for a mastermind I’m part of and to present a day long workshop with the Association for Volunteer Administrators up in Manchester. 

I can’t wait to be there. I hope folks are as excited as I am. Come say hi if you’re a podcast listener and you’re at that event. And we may have a surprise for our podcast listeners. We’re trying to figure out a way to interview people on the fly. And I’ve got a roving microphone that I’m going to, we’re going to see if we can do this, if we can record in the field. 

And if so, you’ll hear some of the insights from our friends in the UK and those in the UK or listening. I hope to see you in Manchester. All right, so everybody, I hope you enjoyed this specific episode. Be sure to listen to part one as well, so you can get the full picture and download our report. And I will be here next week, same time, same place, on the Volunteer Nation.