by Maria Lahiffe
If you had all the money in the world to support your mission, you should probably still recruit volunteers.
Volunteers bring unique value to organizations which go far beyond their employment status as unpaid staff. Consider the following: 
Hiring someone exposes you to risk. You are committing to pay that person’s salary for at least a fixed contract term, if not indefinitely. Not only that, but you also need to make employer contributions to CPP and EI, which can add up to 9% more to what you need to disburse each month.   When you hire someone, you are taking on one person, with one set of skills, one set of strengths and weaknesses, one personality which will resonate particularly well with one subset of your clientele.
Volunteers can fill important gaps in service provision when you do not yet have the funding for a paid staff person, or at times of year when demand is particularly high for your services. In addition, because volunteers typically work part-time, you can recruit a diverse team with diverse skills, who will have a much better chance of being a perfect fit with more of your clients.
This is not to say that volunteers are completely cost-free. You still need to allocate time for someone to manage your volunteer program and train new team members. You also need resources for your volunteers to use when they are working for you, such as desks, computers, and office supplies. However, these costs also accrue with paid staff – anyone who is creating value for your organization needs to be set up for success in their roles.
Working age is typically between 21 and 65, while people can volunteer at any age. This can help you to achieve diversity on your team, and recruit team members who better reflect an age-diverse clientele.
Employees have a defined scope of work, and may need to operate within restrictions imposed from legal sources. Volunteers, on the other hand, can sometimes do things that paid staff cannot do, such as cross geographic boundaries, speak to legislators, or attend public meetings to lobby for a particular interest.
Paid staff in the charitable and non-profit sector tend by and large to be on small teams, where each person needs to take on a wide range of responsibilities. A paid employee may need to wrap up a client meeting in order to prepare a report for the funder which is due at the end of the day. Volunteers, on the other hand, are typically recruited for specific tasks, which they can focus on in order to achieve excellence.
Volunteers are donors. While some donors give money, volunteers give time. Volunteer support shows that the community really values what you do and how you do it, which helps bolster the legitimacy of your cause.
Volunteers are often considered a poor second choice on our teams, as though we would like to hire paid staff but we’ll make do with volunteers because we can’t afford anything better. This is hardly a welcoming attitude!
Volunteers create tremendous value for our organizations, and by extension our community. It is worth the effort to articulate the myriad unique ways in which volunteers contribute to your organization, and cultivate an organizational culture of gratitude for these contributions.
Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to all aspects of running a non-profit or a charity. Click here for our event calendar. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.
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