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Ahh, the 2010s. In looking back over the past 10 years, what ideas took hold and where do we need to go?

I decided to do a look at volunteer management terms and see how often they appeared in a “google search.” I chose to search “news” with a date range. Warning: This is in no way scientific (mainly because I don’t own a lab coat, but I did wear my goats in Santa hats bathrobe during the search so maybe that counts) nor do I claim to be a qualified researcher (more like a nosey, busy body-just ask my neighbor) but anecdotally, I found some interesting tidbits (especially if you count that sale on orthopedic inserts that keeps popping up).

I researched these terms- “volunteer impact,” “volunteer factor,” “still volunteering at,” “corporate volunteering,” “volunteers impacted the mission,” and “volunteer engagement,” all with quotation marks. The results are:

still volunteering at

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  • 2010 2 results
  • 2011 9 results
  • 2012 25 results
  • 2013 27 results
  • 2014 28 results
  • 2015 49 results
  • 2016 58 results
  • 2017 95 results
  • 2018 116 results
  • 2019 219 results

It bugs the heck out of me that a bulk of stories on volunteer activity center around a volunteer who is still volunteering at 99 years old. Before you groan at me, sure, this is great, but where is the focus on the value this 99 year old brings to the mission? Or, better yet, where is the evidence that volunteering benefits this volunteer’s well-being (helping them remain active at 99) which explains why she/he is still able to volunteer at 99? These articles for the most part miss the point and that needs to change.

corporate volunteering”

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  • 2010 1 result
  • 2011 3 results
  • 2012 10 results
  • 2013 23 results
  • 2014 32 results
  • 2015 50 results
  • 2016 73 results
  • 2017 82 results
  • 2018 123 results
  • 2019 251 results

There’s a clear direction here; a direction that needs our immediate attention as more companies become involved with corporate volunteering which includes group volunteering and allowing employees paid time off to volunteer. For more information on corporate volunteering, see Removing the Headache from Corporate Volunteering, the second part, Creating Partnerships from Corporate Volunteering. and finally Volunteer Manager Strategy and CSR.

volunteer engagement

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  • 2010 5 results
  • 2011 8 results
  • 2012 27 results
  • 2013 32 results
  • 2014 50 results
  • 2015 99 results,
  • 2016 140 results
  • 2017 119 results
  • 2018 242 results
  • 2019 245 results

Ok, so the steady increase in articles mentioning volunteer engagement shows that engaging volunteers is becoming part of our lexicon. Good.

“volunteer impact”

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  • 2011 3 articles
  • 2012 3 articles
  • 2013 4 articles
  • 2014 6 articles
  • 2015 7 articles
  • 2016 6 articles
  • 2017 9 articles
  • 2018 28 articles
  • 2019 53 articles

A bit of an uptick the past two years for the term “volunteer impact” is encouraging but there is much work to do because we are leaders of volunteer engagement and impact. We not only engage volunteers, but we guide and lead the impact that volunteers have on the outcomes. The two terms go hand-in-hand. When volunteers are engaged, they positively impact our missions and vice versa. These two terms have a symbiotic relationship which means one increases the other and to integrate volunteer engagement into our nonprofit culture, we must show volunteer impact in order to expect more volunteer engagement. I’d draw an impressive flowchart, but heck, it’s basically just a circle.

“volunteer factor”

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  • 2010 0 results
  • 2011 0 results
  • 2012 0 results
  • 2013 0 results
  • 2014 1 result
  • 2015 1 result
  • 2016 0 results
  • 2017 no results
  • 2018 1 result
  • 2019 9 results

The term, “volunteer factor” sounds so right for us, doesn’t it? Factor’s definition includes “influence that contributes to a result or outcome.” Bingo! Think X factor. Or the “It” factor. Now think about hearing your CEO tell a reporter, “and now let’s talk about the volunteer factor.” We can make the 2020’s the decade of the volunteer factor.

volunteers impacted the mission“: no results, when removing quotes 368 results for the entire decade.

Ok, so there’s work to do here.

We’re on our way to making the 2020’s the decade when volunteer programs take center stage. The roots of change are already sprouting such as:

  • Research pointing to volunteering as a vital component of wellbeing.
  • Corporate entities looking to be socially responsible.
  • Grassroots volunteering taking hold.
  • Research showing employees want to have paid volunteering time.
  • Volunteers wanting to use their skills and talents in innovative ways.

Here’s to the next 10 years. We are making inroads, but we have more work to do. And if there’s anything I know in my gut about volunteer managers, it’s that we are not afraid of hard work. As a matter of fact, we eat hard work for breakfast and throw it up by lunchtime. Wait, ewwww, that’s not right, is it?

What do I wish to see by 2030? I’m convinced that together, our efforts will produce the results we want and all the volunteer manager conference themes for 2029 will no longer be “Time for Change,” but will rather proclaim, “Holy Hell, We Did It!”