Volunteering typically peaks in times of crisis. Impelled by the urgency of a disaster, the intensity of its news coverage, and widespread appeals for help, people step forward with funds and services, willingly and immediately. And yet India grapples with a steady stream of civic, social, and environmental crises that need attention and support throughout the year. This is because these long-standing problems—poverty, human trafficking, and mental health crises—often struggle to garner sustained public support.

It is the development sector that shoulders much of this work, raising and routing funds and human resources for the range of simmering problems the sector attempts to solve. But nonprofit resources are often limited and bound by red tape. India’s social sector has fewer than 10 lakh civil society organisations (CSOs), and only 11–12 percent of these are active (according to the Between Binaries report published last year by Centre for Social and Economic Progress). This means there is one active CSO for 11,000–12,000 people. In the poorest districts, this ratio could plummet to one organisation for a population of 25,000–50,000.

To make matters worse, the funding crunch that the sector is witnessing on account of legislative changes in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has resulted in staff downsizing and even closure, with hard-hitting consequences on service delivery. In light of these constraints, can nonprofits in India find alternate ways to sustain their programmes? Can a committed volunteer base help keep the engine running?

Here are some of the techniques and approaches we have adopted.

  1. Engage volunteers affiliated with existing volunteer bodies
  2. Craft a strong pitch
  3. Make it easy for volunteers to serve
  4. Engage with corporate employees
  5. Set up opportunities for self-reflection

Read the full article about volunteer engagement tips by Sam Ninan Koshy at India Development Review.