Volunteers finding new ways to barn raise

Volunteering / Friday, April 25th, 2014

“I’m so disappointed with the way the world has become,” my grandfather told me. “I don’t know what happened to the values of my generation.”

Do people even care or help anymore? I’ve asked myself this several times since that talk and a more jaded part of me agrees with him. Nowadays, I think a young boy would probably be less inclined to help an old lady cross a street than when my grandpa was young.

Why has helping others changed? Or should the question be — how has helping others changed?

Trend 1: Building dikes is better than giving likes

The future of volunteering is shifting towards online. Like it or lump it, an ever-increasing amount of young people (34-year-olds and younger) spend the bulk of their attention in a virtual world. Because of that, research shows the Internet is becoming the most efficient place to tell a company’s story, engage future clients or volunteers and collect donations.

However, many skeptics continue to heckle that notion.

“Traditionalists have labeled online volunteering and engagement as “slacktivism” because you can complete your service from your couch, in your pajamas,” Tracy Hoover wrote at USAToday.com. “But as the service movement evolves, we should acknowledge that, in many cases, the greatest asset a volunteer can offer is his or her ability to quickly mobilize thousands of Facebook friends or Twitter followers to raise awareness or dollars and to inspire action.”

In my opinion, while we may be tempted to disregard social media evangelists as not really furthering the cause, we couldn’t be more wrong. Solitary drops of service don’t trump ripples. Any help is good help.

Trend 2: Pro-bono and skills-based volunteering

Also, as funding continues to decrease, volunteers are increasingly depended upon to help nonprofits meet their needs.

Luckily, whole companies are responding, donating their manpower and skills.

“More than 500 companies across the country, from the largest in the Fortune 100 to the smallest sole proprietorships, have committed to provide more than $2 billion worth of skills-based volunteer services to help nonprofits address critical community priorities at home and around the world,” Points of Light stated in 2013.

Professional volunteers are especially vital because they can offer skills often lacking in nonprofit organizations. That’s important because while 72% of nonprofits desire corporate volunteer help, only 62% actually work with them, and only 12% of agencies actually match roles to skills according to Points of Light.

Clearly, the gap of organizations that need specific skills and those that can provide them remains huge. Fortunately, some organizations make it easy to offer specific expertise, such as CatchaFire.org and VolunteerMark.com.

Trend 3: Money spending equals power

More empowering than volunteering, one less-conventional trend of giving help is through “purchasing power,” or spending money where it counts. When organizations partner with causes by donating part or all of their proceeds to nonprofits, magic happens.

The effort gives quarterly bottom lines new meaning and consumers get the satisfaction of buying more than just sandals or soccer balls.

Moving forward, our goal should be embracing reinvention. Mobilizing people to do what they want and love to do in ways that directly benefit our causes. But how?

Start by using software that manages practicals so you can focus on what you love to do, not what you have to do. Secondly, invite people to volunteer in the way that best fits them.

Overall, life is always redefining itself and volunteering is no exception. In the past, helping centered around physically assisting someone with a need. In 2014, people still help in that matter, but the barn raising just looks a little different.