News & Updates

Use of Volunteers on the Rise

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Date: February 2, 2017

Organizations are relying heavily on unpaid workers, according to research from Sterling Volunteers’ “Volunteer Screening Trends and Best Practices Report: 2017.”

The percentage of organizations that are using 50 or more volunteers is 76%, up from the previous year’s 55%. The number of volunteers who are considered casual or one-time volunteers has also grown. This contributes to the finding that more volunteers are participating, but fewer are committing to donating long periods of time.

“Unfortunately, you may not know your volunteers as well as you used to. Yet you are responsible for their actions,” says Katie Zwetzig, executive director of Sterling Volunteers. “If an injury or damage occurs, even if it was caused by a one-time volunteer, you can still be considered negligent in the eyes of the law.”

Consequently, 61% of organizations that were surveyed expect to do more background checks in 2017, with youth organizations topping the list as seeing the biggest increase. The amount of money being spent on these checks is also expected to increase, with organizations currently spending double the amount spent in the previous year.

The Sterling Volunteers’ survey of 785 non-profit workers was conducted in May 2016, and includes those who run background checks on their volunteers. Although funding and staffing remain top concerns for managers, participants listed various other specific challenges. These include: recruiting volunteers in a saturated market; a supply of able-bodied, work week volunteers; an aging volunteer population; recruiting and retaining new long-term and frequent volunteers for high-skill projects; finding volunteers older than 21 and younger than 65; and having enough volunteers to keep up with program growth.

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