Kudos to Sacha Pfeiffer for “Volunteers unwanted,” which identifies common challenges and gives examples of successful partnerships, in which charities are honest about what they really need and can accommodate and companies understand these parameters and provide needed resources.
All charities have a responsibility to help potential corporate partners understand the context in which their volunteers will be participating. This usually requires substantial advance planning by nonprofits and companies alike.
With few full-time, professional volunteer administrators on staff anymore, charities can understandably feel overwhelmed by idealistic companies that want to make a difference in an afternoon — an experience for which it can take more than 40 hours to prepare.
There is no such thing as “free staffing.” Someone has to buy, transport, and set up tools and materials, prepare sites and train volunteers, supervise tasks, and explain how volunteers’ activities advance a charity’s mission. This is why many companies involve People Making a Difference, Building Impact, or Boston Cares, since organizations such as these have the service project expertise to handle this for them, much the way some organizations would have an event planner orchestrate their holiday party.
Forward-thinking corporate partners identify and provide what is needed to ensure, or increase, volunteer effectiveness, such as providing funding and staffing, but this typically develops as a result of working together multiple times.
The writer is president of the Boston-based Directors of Volunteer Administration and founder and executive director of People Making a Difference.