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~ June 2006 ~ Topics

Workplace Skills of Volunteers Go Largely Untapped
Conference on Volunteerism and Community Service
Leadership and Volunteerism

Workplace Skills of Volunteers Go Largely Untapped

Despite a need for more resources, the vast majority of non-profit organizations are not capitalizing on the valuable professional skills of their volunteers, a new study has found. More than three quarters of non-profit leaders (77 percent) believe that skilled volunteers could significantly improve their organization's business practices. Yet just 12 percent of non-profits actually put volunteers to work on such assignments. That's among the findings of the 2006 Deloitte/Points of Light Volunteer IMPACT Study, released today by Deloitte & Touche USA LLP and the Points of Light Foundation to coincide with National Volunteer Week.

"Professional skills of volunteers are extremely valuable to non-profits, but to a great extent, are being underutilized," said James H. Quigley, CEO of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP. "This insight uncovers an untapped resource that could significantly increase the effectiveness of non-profits and their contribution to the community."

"Volunteers are one of our nation's most valuable assets, but more can be done to unleash their potential," added Robert K. Goodwin, president and CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that sponsors National Volunteer Week.

The 2006 Deloitte/Points of Light Volunteer IMPACT Study, which surveyed non-profit executives and volunteers from corporate America, showed that nearly nine out of 10 non-profit leaders (89 percent) generally agree that volunteers' workplace skills are valuable to non-profits. Working professionals shared a similar view. Seventy-three percent of them believe their workplace skills are valuable to a non-profit organization.

Yet, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of non-profit executives report they do not work with any companies that provide volunteers. Just 12 percent of non-profits report they typically align tasks with the specific workplace skills of volunteers.

Other key research findings include:

    • Two out of five volunteers (40 percent) say they actively look for opportunities to use their workplace skills when they volunteer.
    • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of volunteers believe their workplace skills are what non-profit organizations need from them most.
    • Only about one in five volunteers (19 percent) say they primarily apply their workplace skills in their volunteer assignments.

The study indicates that skills-based volunteering is highly beneficial to the volunteer, as nearly two-thirds of volunteers (63 percent) think volunteering has had a positive effect on their career. Quigley notes, "People who use their workplace skills as volunteers are rewarded on many different levels. Often their volunteer experience gives people an opportunity to demonstrate and improve their abilities in a different context, which can spark creative problem solving that is directly applicable in the workplace. We see that frequently at Deloitte."

Click here for the complete study.

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Conference on Volunteerism and Community Service

Seattle hosts the National Conference on Volunteering and Service June 18 – 20, 2006. The theme for this year is "Climbing Mountains – Lifting Lives." Pre-conference workshops are available for those running government based programs, working with boomer volunteers, and even a session on strategies to dismiss a volunteer. The opening keynote speech is by Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. Workshops galore for the next three days. Saturday there is an open discussion session to explore issues around creating an association for those who manage volunteer programs. You can find more information on this conference at http://www.volunteeringandservice.org.

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Leadership and Volunteerism

Leadership, communications skills, and resource development - often termed "power skills" in a business setting - are linked to early experiences for women in community service and non-profit volunteer activities.

According to Power Skills research, "How Volunteerism Shapes Professional Success", a study conducted for WOMENS WAY, these and other critical business skills, like problem solving, coaching/mentoring, and public speaking are developed and improved through volunteerism.

The study was conducted by Markitects, Inc., a research firm, in 2005. The online survey and personal interviews focused on 90 professional women in a leadership capacity and sought to determine when, how and why they participate in non-profit and community-based endeavors.

  • 83% of participants reported that they acquired, improved or developed their leadership skills due to volunteer participation, while 78% reported improvement in their communications skills.
  • Other "power skills" improvements the study found were: 62% enhanced problem-solving skills, 57% improved organization/multitasking and 53% enhanced marketing skills.
  • At least 50% of participants have been involved in volunteer work for more than 5 years, and 22% for more than 10 years.
  • Almost 40% of participants started volunteering before they were 16 years old, and over 55% were volunteering by the time they were 30 years old.

"The correlation of women's professional growth and development with their philanthropic involvement makes a strong business case to employees and employers about the importance of investing in community involvement as a professional development tool," said Melissa Weiler Gerber, Executive Director of WOMENS WAY.

"WOMENS WAY hopes to encourage increased volunteerism and enhanced recognition of the myriad of transferable business skills gained through community service. Thanks to funding from The Comcast Foundation and the work of Markitects, we are able to communicate this message to the broader public."

Findings show that volunteerism is one of the richest education and career development tools for professional women. The study participants were involved in more than one organization and sited specific reasons for volunteering including a desire to "give back," a personal or family tragedy, or a tradition of leading by example for the next generation.

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