Membership, Volunteerism & Philanthropy

by Ira Lowy on November 8, 2016
Engaging members in philanthropy is critical to creating a strong affinity for the Y and for supporting the Y’s ability to strengthen community. Philanthropy at the Y can mean gifts of both money and time, which are often complementary activities.[1] One study showed that 79% of donors to an organization also volunteered there in the last twelve months. Of these volunteer-donors, more than two-thirds volunteered 50 or more hours and nearly half (49%) were volunteering for three or more organizations.[2]

In addition to this link between volunteering and donating, people who volunteer tend to donate more -- as much as ten times more money as donors who don’t volunteer.[3] The average donation from households who volunteer was $1,056 while the average donation from households who don’t volunteer was $249.[4] There seems to be a causal link between volunteering for an organization and donating; one report found that half of volunteers donated more after volunteering.[5] In addition, 67% of Americans who volunteered in the past year say they "generally make their financial donations to the same organizations where they volunteer."[6] Engaging your donor base in volunteering has a significant impact on meeting those fundraising goals.

Other factors influence donations. How people perceive your organization impacts how they engage with it. For example, organizations perceived to be less effective with money are more likely to receive volunteers than monetary donations.[7] This could be due to the perception that time has more of an impact than money within those organizations. Maintaining a positive public image in regards to your organization’s ability to manage money is crucial to retaining a reliable donor base.

Also, people with higher social and human capital are more likely to volunteer. Human capital refers to age and the experience that it brings with it. Social capital refers to a person’s networks.[8] This may be because being engaged with the community makes one more interested in participating in prosocial activities.

Interestingly, Volunteers tend to donate time outside of their professional areas of expertise.[9] This could be because volunteers see volunteering as a supplement to instead of an extension of their professional lives. This can adversely affect organizations as volunteer resources may be underutilized if a volunteer’s professional strengths are not known. Effective interviews can help avoid underutilizing a volunteer’s time and skill sets.

In short, engaging members as both donors and volunteers could have a significant impact on a Y’s fundraising abilities. People who volunteer tend to donate to the organizations where they volunteer and they tend to donate more. How the Y is perceived affects the way people choose to philanthropically engage with the Y. By projecting a positive image, an organization can encourage people to donate both money and time, resulting in a stronger organization poised for greater impact.

Ira Lowy is the current AmeriCorps Public Ally for the Membership & Social Responsibility team at Y-USA serving in the role of Research Associate. Ira is a recent DePaul graduate who majored in Peace, Justice, and Conflict studies with minors in Women’s and Gender studies and Anthropology. They are interested in the ways that non-for-profits can build social justice into their everyday functions and millennial engagement. In their free time they are a musician and visual artist working in mixed media.
 
[1] Bryant, W K, Haekyung Jeon-Slaughter, Hyojin Kang, and Aaron Tax. "Participation in Philanthropic Activities: Donating Money and Time." Journal of Consumer Policy : Consumer Issues in Law, Economics and Behavioural Sciences. 26.1 (2003): 43-73. Print.
[2] Fidelity Charitable. Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy. Rep. N.p.: Fidelity Charitable, 2014. Print.
[3] Fidelity Charitable. Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy. Rep. N.p.: Fidelity Charitable, 2014. Print.
[4] Sebastian, Pamela. "Americans Are Donating Less Time, Less Money, Nonprofits' Data Find." Wall Street Journal. (1994). Print
[5] Fidelity Charitable. Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy. Rep. N.p.: Fidelity Charitable, 2014. Print.
[6] Fidelity Charitable. Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy. Rep. N.p.: Fidelity Charitable, 2014. Print.
[7] Callen, Jeffrey L. "Money Donations, Volunteering and Organizational Efficiency."Journal of Productivity Analysis. 5.3 (1994): 215-228. Print.
[8] Bryant, W K, Haekyung Jeon-Slaughter, Hyojin Kang, and Aaron Tax. "Participation in Philanthropic Activities: Donating Money and Time." Journal of Consumer Policy : Consumer Issues in Law, Economics and Behavioural Sciences. 26.1 (2003): 43-73. Print.
[9] Handy, Femida, and Eliakim Katz. "Donating Behavior: If Time Is Money, Which to Give? a Preliminary Analysis." Journal of Economic Studies. 35.4 (2008): 323-332. Print.
 
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