Foundations are always looking for leverage. Where and how can we invest our limited assets to get the best returns? Will our grantees survive these times of shrinking resources and growing needs? As investors in the nonprofit sector who look for innovative ways to maximize our efforts, we must challenge ourselves to better support and build organizational capacity.

A logical and often overlooked solution: supporting effective volunteer engagement and the infrastructure that sustains it.

Building Organizational Capacity

When forming our family foundation, we agreed that helping organizations engage volunteers would increase their ability to accomplish their missions and be sustainable. This strategy has provided a big return on our investment.

Volunteer Engagement As a Core Strategy

Current research supports our approach. It demonstrates a strong connection between organizations that operate with volunteer engagement as a core strategy for mission accomplishment, and the overall health and effectiveness of the organization.

We as funders need to seize this unique opportunity to build nonprofit capacity and sustain and promote more effective volunteer involvement. Here are four actions YOU can take to help make this goal a reality:

  1. Facilitate or convene dialogue with other funders and nonprofits in the community on volunteer engagement strategies and best practices. Explore how you might enhance the volunteer engagement strategies of your grantees.
  2. Ask for feedback regarding volunteer successes and challenges in your grant application and evaluation forms.
  3. Welcome a budget line item to fund a volunteer engagement professional, volunteer resources management technology and software, training and coaching for staff on volunteer engagement, and other vital volunteer resources.
  4. Support existing professional development, training, and networking opportunities for executive directors, managers of volunteer resources, and other organizational staff and volunteer leaders; provide scholarships to enable those professionals and volunteer leaders to participate.

Read the full article about investing in volunteer engagement by Jane Leighty Justis at Exponent Philanthropy.