Volunteers: The Backbone of Family Advocates

Volunteers are vital to nonprofit organizations. Their active participation in fundraising, marketing, and program delivery could save an organization millions of dollars a year.

As an organization, Family Advocates relies heavily on volunteers. We are currently in the 4th quarter of our fiscal year and have already surpassed the number of children we served last fiscal year. Since we are a smaller organization, we don’t have the capacity to employee all the amazing people it takes to serve our community to the fullest.

Volunteering gives individuals the chance to give back to their community, develop new skills, and meet people with similar interests. No matter the reason for their participation, volunteers are deciding to give up time in their busy lives to support a specific cause. Often times, they are also a driving force, and biggest donors and advocates. Thanking volunteers is an important part of encouraging their involvement and continued support. There are many actions, big and small, to recognize volunteers; the most important thing is to thank volunteers regularly.

The Volunteering in America report from AmeriCorps states that volunteers are the backbone of the organization — something that’s especially true at organizations with a small staff or a unique mission, or for those in small or rural communities, a statement that rings true specifically for Family Advocates.

Our volunteers do incredible work and when asked “what do you wish people knew about volunteering with Family Advocates”, CASA volunteer Beth said, “Working as a CASA is not as hard or as scary as it may seem. Social Workers are very overwhelmed and it’s difficult for them to spend adequate time with each case. A CASA volunteer has one family, and you are able to spend time to get to know just those kids and provide them a voice.”

We asked board member Merri Hanson, VP & General Manager for Idaho News 6 – KIVI & KSAW, the same question, “As far as I’m concerned, there is no greater mission than helping those who cannot help themselves. Unfortunately, the need is great in our community. Without the help of our CASA and Family Strengthening Education volunteers, there would be many kids continuing to live in abusive environments. We need more volunteers to make an even greater impact and serve more kids. You can make a difference!”

Each year, Independent Sector, along with the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland, releases Value of Volunteer Time data, which provides hourly dollar estimates for volunteerism in the nation and each state. The Value of Volunteer Time is typically used by nonprofit organizations for recognition or reports to show the amount of community support an organization receives from its volunteers.

According to Independent Sector, the value of volunteer time in the state of Idaho is $26.11 an hour. As of March 31st 2022, Family Advocates volunteers have put in 16,970 hours, saving our organization approximately $443,086.70. This figure illustrates the valuable contributions volunteers make to support the children and families in the Treasure Valley.

John W. Gardner, Independent Sector co-founder, touches on the empathy reflected in volunteerism, saying, “[…] its vitality is rooted in good soil – civic pride, compassion, spiritual commitments, a sense of individual responsibility, and whatever cynics may say, a commitment to the great shared effort to improve our life together and to ensure a good future for our children and our children’s children.”

The AmeriCorps’ Volunteering in America report ranks Idaho in the top 10 states for resident volunteers and reports the states volunteer services worth an estimated $1.1 billion.

“Despite COVID-19’s devastating impact, which began in 2020 and continues through today, our country’s volunteers continued to show up, virtually and in person, with their compassion, skills, and abilities. They often put their own lives at risk. They are the threads that connect us as a nation, constantly reinforcing the foundation of civil society and helping build pathways so we all can thrive.” said Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of Independent Sector.

A supportive organization and a skilled leader’s approach to volunteers can mean the difference between having active, engaged volunteers or constant turnover that disrupts the organization’s programs and morale. Volunteers often help keep the doors open and enable nonprofits to deliver vital programs and services. They lend their expertise on the board of directors, to fundraising campaigns and special events.

Tracking the value of volunteer time reminds us that volunteering may be priceless, but it isn’t free. Dan Cardinali writes about the value of volunteering, “volunteers contribute real value, and we need to recognize that.”

With so many things competing for people’s time and attention, nonprofits are tasked with finding meaningful ways to attract and use volunteers. Because volunteers freely give of their time and talents, they must believe in an organization’s mission and feel valued and appreciated. One way organizations can harness the power of volunteers is by partnering with businesses that believe in their mission. Nonprofits that raise awareness of their mission and spread the good work of their organization increase volunteers and giving. And businesses that partner with nonprofits to organize employee volunteer days can build both customer and employee loyalty.

“Aligning the mission of the volunteer and organization is important for both the nonprofit and individual,” Katie Zwetzig, executive director of Verified Volunteers says. “Individuals want to volunteer for a cause they care about and where they can make an impact. Organizations ideally want to build a long-term relationship with volunteers.”

A study done by AmeriCorps found that those who give back to their communities have improved physical and mental health. Volunteering also helps build new relationships and social connections, increases independence, and fosters a greater sense of purpose.

At Family Advocates we truly could not do what we do without our volunteers. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for their passion for our mission, the time they put in for the children and families, and for their continued support. They deserve all the recognition in the world.