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~ January 2003 ~ Topics

Do the Numbers! Competition for Volunteers

Ever wonder why it is so difficult to find volunteers? Do you suspect that the competition is stealing your thunder and volunteers? Here are some numbers to shed light on the problem.

Facts on US 501 (c) (3)*
IRS 990 Revenue Ranges Number % Total Revenue % of Revenue
Under $100,00



$4.1 billion

$100,000-$1 million



$31.5 billion

$1 million-$10 million



$114.2 billion

$10 milion-$100 million



$221.6 billion

$100 million – 1 billion



$311.5 billion

$1 billion - $10 billion



$58.9 billion


*Does not include private foundations

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What Do These Numbers Mean?

Here are some observations:

  • The greatest number of nonprofits in this IRS category generate less than $1 million dollars of income per year. Close to 79% of them to be exact. Could these groups need more volunteers than those with more money?
  • It could be argued that the more money you generate, as a percent of the revenue in the nonprofit sector, the more clout you have. And the more attractive you are to potential volunteers.
  • The segment of this group with the most revenue is hospitals. They alone represent about 23% of the income for all registered charities.
  • The total number of such charities is 216,681 (add in blank forms or those with zeros in the spaces for revenue and you are up to 663,584). Could this create a competitive environment for finding volunteers?

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Recognition is Not Meaningful If It’s . . .
Recognition is Not Meaningful If It’s... Always planned in advance... what about a spontaneous coffee break or pizza party?
Always the job of the volunteer program manager... what about a committee with responsibility for reward and recognition activities?
Always done in traditional ways... what about sending email messages or yard sign that says, “An Important Volunteer Lives Here?”
Always one annual event... why not more frequent smaller events with less expensive mementos?
Always a celebration of work-related milestones... why not personal achievements or for no reason at all?
Always planned during a big event... what about that committee to plan a year long series of recognition and reward activities (and just throw in the spontaneous ones.)
Always a repeat of the recognition activities of the year before... what about some creativity, imagination, and new blood?

*Adapted from handout developed by Bonnie Holtmann, United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 2001.

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Coping with Unwanted Jobs

The volunteer program manager is a target of the “plop” type of assignment. Something arrives in the organization that needs to be done, but does not fit in a tidy category for a specific staff member. So who is it that seems to do everything? The volunteer manager! Here are some tips on how to cope with these unwanted tasks.

  • Be honest about saying no. Outline the real reasons why this is an inappropriate task for you to do! Never lie and never hedge.
  • Offer to help with part of the task. Let the person asking know you cannot do it all, but have free time on. . . (be specific about the time you are available) and agree to take on part of the task.
  • Respond in a positive way to the assignment, but do not say yes. Say you want to think about the idea and see how it fits with your current workload. This gives you time to really consider the importance of the assignment and how you could fit it in.
  • Agree to do the task, but with conditions. Share with the person asking you to do this job your action plan for the next month. Explain that this is full time work. If you take a new assignment, something has to come off the “to-do” list. Help me decide what goes. This works especially well with supervisors. You can also set some parameters about how and when you will do the task.
  • Suggest a more qualified person. Be sincere in thinking who has the qualifications to do this better than you might. And tell the person asking you to do this why you think the other person might be adept at doing this assignment.

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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.

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