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The New Face of Volunteering

Posted by Jordan Shue
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The old model of employee engagement and volunteerism is quickly fading. In a world where everyone can be an artist, a creator, an inventor, or a key player in a project far-removed from his or her own experience, volunteering has morphed into something vastly different from its original shape. Employees now crave the opportunity to be integrally involved in a major aspect of a non-profit’s work, which not only gives each a sense of purpose and completion, but also can greatly expand the services provided to an organization if the volunteer projects are designed carefully with these shifts in mind. The same tenets that apply to new marketing, crowdsourcing, and product design strategies also apply to volunteering, as more and more people crave deeper connections and ownership that lead to greater satisfaction in all aspects of life.

 

A great deal of this shift relies on building successful partnerships with businesses (the goal of our pARTnership Movement), which often serve as the gatekeepers to large volunteer bases. Part of securing these types of relationships with businesses is the ability to articulate not just what you need as an organization, but what you can give to businesses to increase employee engagement, encourage creativity in the office, stimulate productivity, and foster a community in which employees are excited to live and work. Click here for 8 reasons you can give to businesses to partner with the arts.

 

Blackbaud Inc., a supplier of services designed for nonprofit organizations, recently released a guide for small businesses seeking to start an employee volunteer program. This is a wonderful resource to direct local businesses to in addition to the pARTnership Movement, as 47% of businesses contributing to the arts had revenues of less than $1 million in 2012, according to the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts.

 

The traditional model for the past few decades has relied on skills-based placements, which pair professionals in the fields of finance, law, marketing, and more with arts organizations that require specific skills for projects for which they may not have been able to complete otherwise. While this is still an incredibly successful enterprise, delivering nearly $1.1 million in volunteer services through 2012 Business Volunteers for the Arts programs alone, many employees are beginning to seek more flexible options.

Volunteers are looking for a bevy of different options, including team skills and non skills-based, virtual volunteering, volunteer hackathon days, and mentoring. Businesses that supply employees are increasingly looking for unique modes of engagement, including arts-based training for employees, ask-a-consultant events that can pair employees with more than one arts organization in a day, arts volunteer fairs, employee art shows, corporate arts challenges, and more.

 

Volunteering is a sign of a healthy nonprofit organization, not the solution for a failing one,” writes Greg Baldwin for VolunteerMatch, a wonderful resource for trends in the field. Volunteers are drawn towards projects that push an organization’s mission forward, and not ones that are thrown together as a bandage for a problem that will need to be fixed again later on down the road.

 

Click here for more information about Americans for the Arts’ Business Volunteers for the Arts program. For toolkits and other resources on how to engage volunteers, visit the pARTnership Movement website, and share your success stories with us!

 

Follow the Arts & Business Council of New York on Twitter (@ArtsBizNY) and tune in on Thursday, May 29th as they share tips and resources relating to #EmployeeEngagement throughout the day!

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