Most people have a general idea that nonprofit organizations “do good things”. And they are correct! 501(c)3 designated nonprofit organizations exist to address a critical social need. They have identified a problem and created a unique way to solve it. The work they do helps to make our world a better place. But I think there’s more to it than that.
We are living in some crazy times right now. Between social, racial, and political unrest, an uncertain economy, and a major war going on, we are a nation divided. Stress, anxiety, social isolation, and depression are at an all time high. As adults, many find it difficult to make friends. And people struggle to have civilized conversations with those on “the other side” of their beliefs. All of this is why I believe that nonprofits are more important than ever.
In addition to working on solving a specific problem, the real magic of nonprofit organizations is how they bring people together. First, they give people something to care about. Rallying people around a problem and engaging them in the solution brings them together. The more people who care about their community and their neighbors, the better.
Second, when people come together and work side-by-side with others who care about the same thing, they form relationships. Different backgrounds, points-of-view, and beliefs come together to work towards a common goal. This means exposure to individuals that one might never experience. Which builds understanding and compassion for people who are different from us.
Finally, helping others helps us. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. In addition, it connects people to being part of a solution, which can reduce anxiety. And it improves feelings of connectedness, growing their social network and improving relationships.
Nonprofit organizations are in a unique position to connect people to important issues in their community. Agencies that do not see their role in bringing people together are missing their opportunity to really save the world. Many nonprofit leaders struggle with asking people to volunteer or donate to their cause, feeling like they are creating a burden. I believe that we need to flip that script and view it as providing opportunities for everyone to make a difference in their community and their world.
Imagine if everyone chose a cause that they cared about and gave even just a little bit of their time and/or money to help solve the issue. Think of the impact it would have on our world and our mental health! Currently, 25% of adults in the US volunteer in some way in their community. Most people do not donate or volunteer because they have not been asked.
None of this is to imply that managing volunteers is easy for organizations. To effectively utilize volunteers the agency must develop meaningful and engaging opportunities. Similar to leading staff, these roles require leadership and connection to the cause. Engaging volunteers is not meant to just be “free labor”. It takes dedication, thoughtfulness and intentionality. And it’s definitely worth the effort, both for the organization and for our world!
This is why I believe nonprofits are more important than ever. The work they do bringing people together and giving them something to care about can help save our world. Does your organization need help developing your volunteer engagement? If so, I would love to help! Email me at Kim@Athena-CoCo.com or set up a Discovery Call to learn more. Let’s connect!
Kim is a mom, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits and small businesses.