The Real Value of Nonprofits 

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 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. 

How to Be a Superhero

Last month I wrote an article on How Nonprofits Will Save the World. It talked about the impact of nonprofit organizations on our community, and the value of bringing people together to address our communities’ most critical social needs. 

If you know anything about nonprofit organizations, you already know that they never have enough time, money or people. After all, saving the world is a 24/7/365 job! One thing all nonprofit organizations have in common is that they could use more Superheroes. Fortunately, anyone can be a Superhero! This article will share the four ways that everyday citizens can transform into real life Superheroes. 

How to Be A Superhero

There are four general categories that define how you can serve your favorite nonprofit organization:

  1. Donate
  2. Serve as a Program Volunteer
  3. Become a Board Volunteer
  4. Participate & Advocate

If you care about the work of an organization, making a financial donation is probably the easiest thing you can do. It requires very little time, and every organization already has plans for what they can do with your donation. Even small donations can have a significant impact. 

Some organizations take donations of food or supplies. These efforts are great for engaging donors, and a good way to connect children to philanthropy. If you go that route, I’d like to suggest that you also consider a cash donation. Because of their supply chains and partnerships, a food pantry can stretch your dollar much farther than you can. In the hands of a food pantry, a $1 donation can feed approximately 10 people. 

Additionally, I’d like to recommend that you avoid making a donation that will create more work for the agency. For example, some organizations collect donated cars, then auction them off for the proceeds. That’s a cool fundraiser, if the agency is set up for those transactions. If they are not, your donated car creates a lot of work for staff who are already stretched thin. 

The best way to know what an agency needs most is to check their website or to ask. Clothing closets still need clothes and animal shelters need old blankets. I’m not trying to dissuade you from giving in-kind donations. However, I want to emphasize that cash is king and what agencies need most. 

The last point that I would like to make here is to encourage you to do your research. Especially if you are considering a larger contribution. Resources for understanding an agency’s transparency and rating compared to other organizations include: Charity Navigator and GuideStar and the BBB’s

Serve as a Program Volunteer

I like to divide nonprofit volunteer work into two categories: Program Volunteers and Board Volunteers (these can also be called Policy Volunteers or Governance Volunteers). In this section we’ll go over different ways to serve as a Program Volunteer. The next section will cover Board Volunteers.

A Program Volunteer is generally someone who performs tasks for an agency. This could be just about anything! Here’s a short list of jobs I have seen organizations employ volunteers for: 

    • Scout Leader
    • Youth Sports Coach
    • Food Pantry Processing
    • Welcome Desk Attendant
    • Nursery Baby Rocker or Book Reader
    • Blanket Maker for Chemo Patients
    • Event Assistant – water stations at races, check-in tables, providing direction for participants, welcoming, logistics, distributing supplies, etc.
    • Fundraiser
    • Tour Guide
    • Classroom Assistant
    • Animal Companion 
    • Office Support
    • Instructor
    • Cleaner
    • Carpenter
    • And much, much more!

This one is pretty easy to understand. If you have a skill you want to share or some time you would like to give, it’s just a matter of finding an organizational match. Agencies sometimes have their volunteer positions listed on their websites or on a jobs board. However, oftentimes they haven’t even thought of all the ways they could use volunteers. If you see a way that you could contribute or an unmet need, reach out and present your idea. Just make sure that your proposed idea doesn’t create more work for the staff. 

Become a Board Volunteer

Board Volunteers are the fiduciary agents for a nonprofit organization. A Board represents the community or the constituents that the organization is committed to serving. Board members are responsible for ensuring that the organization delivers upon its mission, while at the same time making sure it is a responsibly and ethically managed business. 

Board Volunteers differ from Program Volunteers in that they are thought leaders, rather than task leaders. When you are invited onto a Board, the organization is looking to you for your insights, opinions, and expertise. Board roles generally fall into these categories:

    • Mission & Purpose
    • Organizational Planning
    • Select Exec/CEO
    • Exec Support/Evaluation
    • Program/Service Outcomes
    • Adequate Resources
    • Financial Oversight
    • Ethical/Legal Integrity
    • Set Policy
    • Board Development
    • Community Conduit 

This is a lot. Rather than going into detail about each of these roles here, I’ll save that for a future article. 

If you are interested in serving on a Board, reach out to the Executive Director/CEO or the Board Chair. They likely have a process for recruiting and vetting their volunteers. You can also check out local resources, like Colorado Nonprofit Association or your local Library to find agencies looking for Board Members. 

Participate & Advocate

Last, but not least – you can support your local nonprofit organizations through participation and advocation. If they have a special event to raise money – sign-up. Tell your friends. And don’t just tell them “Hey, I’m doing this fun event, join me.” Tell them what organization the event is supporting, and the impact their work has on the community. 

The very best way to spread the word about the amazing work of a nonprofit organization is through word-of-mouth. Real people in the community, telling other real people carries more weight than any paid advertising. If you’ve been a beneficiary of an agency’s services, event better! Tell people. Your testimonial is not only great for PR, but it helps reduce stigma around these critical social issues. 

Your genuine, first-person words of support can benefit an agency in so many ways. Leave a google or yelp review. Videotape a testimonial. Offer to speak at a Board meeting or other event advocating for the organization. Spread the word, it truly helps. 

During the month of November I will be highlighting several nonprofit organizations. If one piques your interest, I hope this information helps you consider ways that you can step up and be a Superhero for them. 

Want to learn more about how you can have a lasting impact on your community? Email me at to connect for a free 30-minute discovery call. In order to save the world, nonprofits need superheroes like you to help them have the kind of impact they exist to deliver. 

Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of small businesses and nonprofits.

How Nonprofits will Save the World!

We are living in some crazy times, amirite? The pandemic, our nation’s political divide, racial tensions, climate change, the list goes on and on. These are big issues with complex solutions! And while our government, business, and science are all working on finding the answers, I’d like to suggest we put our hope in nonprofit organizations. 

What is a Nonprofit?

In case you’re not clear on what qualifies as a nonprofit organization, here’s the formal definition: 

A nonprofit organization is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public or social benefit, in contrast with an entity that operates as a business aiming to generate a profit for its owners.

In a nutshell, nonprofits exist to make the world a better place. No one makes money as a shareholder of a nonprofit. However, it’s appropriate for staff to be paid a livable wage. When a nonprofit makes more money than they spend, those dollars are invested right back into the business. 

These organizations are led by volunteer Boards, rather than shareholders. Board members are community members invested in the positive impact the organization has on their community. The intention of a volunteer Board is to represent the community and the organization’s constituents. 

Since no one is getting rich from a nonprofit organization, decisions are made differently. While a nonprofit business must operate in a business-minded, fiscally responsible manner, they do not exist solely to make money. Therefore, leaders can make decisions that genuinely put their mission and beneficiaries first. 

Nonprofit Impact

The 1.3 million charitable nonprofits in our country help to feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire, enlighten and nurture people of all ages, backgrounds, genders, races, and socioeconomic positions. Nonprofits make up 5.3% of the GDP and 9.2% of all salaries and wages in our country. It’s a trillion dollar industry. Total charitable giving is over $390 billion annually. 92% of nonprofit organizations are small community-based agencies, serving local needs. 

There’s a good chance that everyone reading this article has been impacted by a nonprofit. If not directly, then definitely through a family member. Here’s an abridged list of the many ways nonprofit organizations improve lives and communities:

  • Nearly half of the hospitals in America are nonprofit
  • The March of Dimes and nonprofit scientific researchers provided vaccines in an effort to eradicate polio and other diseases
  • YMCAs, JCCs, Red Cross and Scout Camps teach children how to be safe in and around water
  • Life skills like conflict resolution and teamwork are taught through Girl Scouts, 4H, Little League and other youth development organizations
  • There are nonprofit preschools, grade schools, high schools, colleges and graduate schools; as well as nonprofit scholarship funds
  • Our right to vote, to an education, to travel, to equal treatment under the law, and other rights are secured and protected by nonprofit organizations
  • Historic treasures and natural resources are preserved by nonprofits
  • Many cultural centers are nonprofits, such as the San Diego Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
  • The clean air we breathe in tobacco-free restaurants is thanks to the work of public health nonprofits
  • Countless art installations, musical concerts and theatrical presentations are shared every year due to the work of nonprofit art agencies

To sum this up, nonprofits foster civic engagement and leadership, drive economic growth, and strengthen the fabric of our communities. All day. Every day. 

So Exactly How will Nonprofits Save the World?

Maybe that’s a bold statement. But here’s what I have seen in my 30-years leading nonprofit organizations. Well-run organizations bring people together for the greater good. They pull people together for walk-athons and to collect school supplies for kids in the community. They draw on the community leadership to raise money for much needed facilities and programs. And they connect people from all social levels in a community to come together and make their community the best it can be. 

Will that save the world? I think so. Lucy Christopher said:

“It’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.” 

This is what nonprofits do so well. They exist for the community. Therefore, to really be effective, they need to bring the community together. They bring together people from all different backgrounds in order to make decisions that serve the whole community. 

When you work side-by-side with someone to address a critical social need that will strengthen your community, you build relationships. You start to understand what makes them tick. And whether you agree with them or not, you develop respect and compassion towards them. 

I understand that we will still need complex solutions to the issues facing our country. However, we can start small, in our own communities, and work on our local challenges. From that we can foster respect and understanding. And that’s what I believe is key to moving forward as a nation. 

Know of a nonprofit organization that needs help engaging the community? Email me at to connect them for a free 30-minute discovery call. In order to save the world, nonprofits need superheroes like you to help them have the kind of impact they exist to deliver. 

Kim Stewart

Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of small businesses and nonprofits.