2020 Industry Insights – How Volunteer and Organization Perspectives Align

Posted Wednesday, March 18th, 2020 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

2020 Research Report

Whether it’s family, friends, or coworkers, the strongest relationships are built on trust, transparency, shared goals, and a mutual understanding of values. The relationship between volunteers and nonprofit organizations is similar. In the 2020 report, we explore the shared perspectives and commonalities between volunteers and organizations, as well as the differing points of view that make each group unique.

We partnered with VolunteerMatch for a second consecutive year to produce our annual Industry Insights report, surveying 10,811 volunteers and 735 organizations to compare their perspectives and answer questions such as: Are volunteers and volunteer organizations on the same page about the future of volunteering? Does each group know what motivates the other? And what are their thoughts on background screening?

Co-presenters Katie Zwetzig, Executive Director of Sterling Volunteers and Julie VanDeLinder, Chief of Strategy and Business Operations at VolunteerMatch recently teamed up to share the findings from the report. If you didn’t catch the webinar live, you can watch it on-demand here.

Volunteer Insights

Volunteers and organizations mostly agree on what motivates volunteers to give their time – 81% of volunteers and 80% of organizations say people volunteer because they want to make a positive impact in the community. In last year’s report we found that volunteers ranked “making a positive impact” as the second-most important reason behind “contributing to a cause.” This year organizations rated a similar response (“they are passionate about particular causes”) much higher (72%) than volunteers (48%).

Volunteers and organizations are also mostly aligned on what keeps volunteers engaged and how organizations should approach engagement. They agree that understanding the impact of service, skill-building and relationship-building are important aspects of volunteer engagement. However, there are some differences, including between how much recognition organizations are giving (74%) and how much volunteers say recognition keeps them engaged (24%).

Almost every organization surveyed (97%) said they let their volunteers know about the direct impact their efforts made to the mission and rightfully so, as 82% of volunteers agreed that they want to know their impact. This is up slightly from last year – 78% of volunteers reported that “understanding the impact of my volunteer service” was the top factor in keeping them engaged.

Background Screening

Volunteers and organizations agree that background screening is important, with 98% of organizations conducting background checks and 70% of volunteers in favor of screening. Whether all volunteers should be screened, 58% of organizations and 30% of volunteers agree, and around half of all volunteers and organizations agree that volunteers working with vulnerable populations should be screened. Additionally, 57% of organizations conducted background renewals last year and 14% listed rescreening as their biggest challenge.

A closer look shows that 68% of organizations have uncovered criminal history with background checks, and 48% of volunteers say they feel safer knowing background screening is required. The most common searches organizations use are Sex Offender Searches, National Crime Searches, State and County Searches, Motor Vehicle Records Searches, and Social Security Traces. The most common issues organizations find are misdemeanor convictions for nonviolent crimes (79%) and driving convictions (73%).

Accounting for Screening

For a nonprofit, incorporating screening into its budget can be a big undertaking. There are several factors to consider and difficult questions to answer, such as “who should pay for screening.” Nearly one-third of organizations responded that they would not be willing to ask volunteers to pay for their own background checks, and the rest are willing, conditionally – 34% said they would if it provides benefits or more value to the volunteer, 22% would if it reduces costs, and 13% would if it reduces administrative overhead.

Organizations assume that volunteers would be willing to pay less– 76% of volunteers say they’d be willing to pay $10-$25 for their own background check while 53% of organizations thought volunteers would be willing to pay in that range. Interestingly, the older a volunteer is, the more they’re willing to spend on screening costs.

Let’s Get Digital

Last year we found that 90% of volunteers prefer digital communications over paper, and that older volunteers don’t prefer a mobile experience. This year, we further explored the use of digital technology in volunteering and found that volunteers are using digital platforms more than organizations as their primary means of search or recruitment. Organizations also post opportunities through social media channels (59%), and email (63%) about as frequently as they do through personal referrals (63%). So, while digital platforms aren’t every organization’s primary recruiting tool, many are still posting opportunities and finding volunteers online.

Almost all volunteers say that access to an online community of nonprofits is what they want. Organizations are a little more hesitant, though the majority do agree – 95% of volunteers would find a trusted online community of organizations with volunteer listings helpful, while 59% of organizations say a community such as this would be helpful for finding volunteers.

Facebook is at the top of social media recruitment channels – 84% of volunteers use the platform to find opportunities and 95% of organizations use it for recruitment. It’s notable that Instagram is in second place with 44% of organizations using the platform and 28% of volunteers. No organizations reported using Pinterest for recruitment, but 8% of volunteers have found opportunities there.

The Future is Bright

People are optimistic about the future of volunteerism. In fact, 94% of volunteers and volunteer organizations agree. Here’s what some had to say:

  • “Volunteering is becoming a cultural norm which is great!”
    – A youth-development organization
  • “Most people WANT to give something positive back to their community.”
    – An organization from New York
  • “Social media has brought a ton of awareness to issues and is a great medium to rally people behind a cause, spurring more people to give their effort and time.”
    – A Generation X volunteer from Missouri
  • “People continue to have a desire to be connected to something bigger than themselves.”
    – A volunteer who gave time to 4+ organizations in 2019
  • “Each generation seems to be more into [volunteering] than the last.”
    – An organization from California
  • “There are always people willing to help others.”
    – A volunteer who strives to make a difference

Stay Tuned for More Volunteer Screening Insights

Visit our blog for more insights into the “2020 Industry Insights: How Volunteer and Organization Perspectives Align” report. Did you miss the webinar? Watch it on-demandat any time or download a copy of the research report.