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~March 2002~ Topics
  • Who is Volunteering?
  • Combining for Good
  • Increasing Professional Skills
  • Saying Thank You

Who is Volunteering?

Independent Sector has released some of the early data on their biannual survey on giving and volunteering in the United States. The study was conducted between May and July of 2000. For the first time the study excluded those between age 18 and 21. This makes comparison with earlier studies problematic. Here are some of the results.

  • 44% of adults 21 or older are engaged in volunteering for an organization. This is 83.9 million people.
  • The volunteers donated 15.5 billion hours. This is valued at $239 billion.
  • Volunteers averaged 3.6 hours per week of volunteer service.
  • 63% of adults volunteered when asked.
  • The average charitable contribution per household was $1,620. The average donation from households where people volunteered was $2300. This was more than double the contribution of households that did not volunteer. ($1009)

Combining for Good

Three giants in the cyber world have joined forces to create a full-service Web site for nonprofit and volunteer programs. The new site,, brings together AOL Time Warner, Cisco Systems, and Yahoo! AOL previously ran, it is now part of the new site. Cisco Systems, is hosting the new nonprofit, Network For Good, which is operating the site. A Cisco employee is serving on a volunteer basis as the President and CEO of the new organization. Yahoo! and 23 partnering nonprofits make up the full partnership.

The plan is for two portal sites-one for consumers and one for nonprofits. The site for nonprofits will collect and publish a broad range of information and tools that are available on the Internet. In some cases, they will develop new materials. It plans to let visitors know about making donations to the nearly 850,000 nonprofits registered with Charities get 100% of donations, because Cisco has lined up grants and in-kind support to fuel this megasite.

There is also a location where organizations can recruit volunteers through a database provided by VolunteerMatch. There is also an effort to boost online advocacy, by helping visitors locate elected officials and news reports on a variety of topics.

Increasing Professional Skills

Interested in increasing your professional volunteer management skills? Like to work online? The answer may be the Washington State University's Volunteer Management Certificate Program. This course is designed specifically for those who manage volunteers and includes practice examples and assignments directly related to volunteer programs. All assignments are based on an individual's organization of choice. It provides the opportunity to examine the way you recruit, train, manage, evaluate and recognize volunteers. Completion results in a university credential and new skills. Take a look at the Web site for more information at

Saying Thank You

A state government employee with the Department of Education wrote thank you postcards each day of his 25 +working life. He said, "Every day at least one person, and often more, contribute to the educational health of his/her community and thus the entire state. It is so easy to say thank you." This man, long retired, is a legend throughout his state, and one of its more famous educational leaders. Why?

He took personal time to hand write notes that were totally unexpected by the recipient. That small kindness of a very personal nature has a long reach and impact. Here are some personal ways to increase the reach and impact of your "thank you's."

~Spend part of Thanksgiving Day calling people who have no family to tell them how their donation is being used for your organization.
~Send handwritten, personal, and warm thank you notes for anyone who donates a prescribed number of volunteer hours in a six-month period or donates more than $300. Be sure to monitor increases in the number of people from year to year to see if this special attention is having an impact.
~Standardized letters can be personalized with stories from those most familiar with the organization and well known to volunteers. The stories should be directly related to the work of the organization.
~Thank you letters to those working on big events should give specific details about the results; money raised, people fed, boards nailed, etc. Engage the reader in feeling that his/her contribution is building for the future.
~Find ways to communicate separately with big donors or those who volunteer many hours. Start with the standard thank you, follow with a handwritten and personal thank you, provide information on the donation (tax information), or hours served and the value. These should be staggered out, as a way to show the gift of time or money is truly valued.
~Create bookmarks based around the mission. For example, if you are serving low-income families use quotes from them to embellish the bookmark. A thank you with the bookmark shares the mission and reinforces why the person is so valuable to the organization.
~Never make mistakes. Be sure the spelling of the name is correct, the number of hours donated is accurate, or the money given is true. An error of this type tells the recipient the organization is just going through the motions and is not paying attention to the details.
~Smaller organizations are aping their bigger cousins by sending a welcome package for smaller donors. Individuals donating $50 receive a thank you letter with appropriate items to tie them to the organization; a membership card, information on special offers, list of benefits, schedule of up-coming events, decal, or free admission to events.


The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future.

The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, contact Crystal Hill at 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.