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Is there a soft bias towards volunteers because they only volunteer once a week or month? Volunteers can’t be as committed, as knowledgeable, as valuable or impactful as staff who labor 40 (wait, who are we kidding, like 60-80, most uncounted) hours a week? But in reality, less time spent by volunteers is a gift.

 Volunteers are not burdened by the stress of working for us full-time.

Volunteers who show up once a week or month are like opening the window. They come in, trailing currents of fresh air. They bring with them new experiences, a taste of outside ideas, and rejuvenated enthusiasm to our stale environments

What factors contribute to a stale environment?

Well, for starters, the pandemic for cryin’ out loud! Compassion fatigue, burnout, overwork, repetition, familiarity, slow to change movement, it’s always been done thus mentality, funding worries and stress. Each of these freshness killers lurks in the halls of non-profits, waiting to blow their stale breath into our lungs.

Pedestal of Perpetual Caring

There is a pressure on non-profit staff to be “on” at all times. This Pedestal of Perpetual Caring implies that every moment is as intensely compassionate as the first one. Who can live up to that standard when change is everywhere, workloads are increasing, reports are due, projects need attention and budgets are withering?

Enter Volunteer Fresh

What benefits do we reap because our volunteers are NOT with us 24/7?

  • Our volunteers, because they are not on a pedestal of caring and are not burdened by the stresses of working with us full-time can and do exhibit the intense compassion every client needs.
  • Our volunteers can focus on a single, crucial task, because they are not being pulled in 50 directions.
  • Our volunteers are out there in the world 98% of the time and bring with them outside opinions, trends, ideas and methods.
  • Our volunteers bring infectious enthusiasm and continually remind us why we love our work. They plug us back into our missions.

Volunteer Fresh is Circular

Volunteers are not tools They are living, breathing human beings. They do not volunteer in a vacuum. Instead, they trail portions of us when in the community and bring portions of our community to us every time they volunteer. They bring our mission to the community and the freshness of our communities to us. They are a continuous pipeline or bridge that directly connects us with not only the people we serve, but with the people we want to reach out to for support.

Some questions to ask your organization when talking about volunteer fresh.

  • Do you want unbiased opinions from the community or do you want the same stale reports?
  • Do you want new, untapped donation streams? (yep, that will get some attention)
  • Do you want to give our clients stress-free compassion or would you rather send in someone who is overworked?
  • Do you actually want diversity or are you just mouthing the desire to be inclusive?
  • Do you want free word of mouth marketing or do you want to stretch the budget?
  • Do you want free expertise or do you want to bring back last year’s consultant who just told you what you wanted to hear? (and charged a hefty fee)
  • Do you want to put together another task force made up of staff who are already overworked, or would you like to hear some diverse opinions? (including thoughts from volunteers who have been recipients of mission services)

Ok, non-profit people. We’re tired of being indoors. It is time to open the window.


in case you want a copy of the volunteer fresh diagram:

this is an update from a 2017 post