National Volunteer Shortage Threatens Stability of Nonprofits (news) 

National Volunteer Shortage Threatens Stability of Nonprofit Programming

Nonprofits in Arizona are having a hard time getting volunteers to come back compared to pre-Covid times, as reported by Axios. This represents a continuation of a broader trend since the onset of the pandemic, where nonprofits have seen volunteer participation decline nationally. Nonprofits like the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central and Northern Arizona say they may have to stop providing meals because of increased costs and lack of volunteers. Higher gas prices, coupled with fewer work-associated volunteer outings as well as remaining concerns about Covid may have contributed to the decrease. This animal nonprofit in California is entirely volunteer-run and has seen funding decrease by 30% since the onset of the pandemic. Decreases in volunteer participation threaten the stability of the hundreds of thousands of volunteer-led organizations throughout the country.

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Rough Transcription

[00:00:00] This week on the nonprofit news feed, we’re talking about, uh, national volunteer shortage as it rolls out and continues, Nick, how’s it going? It’s going good, George, how are you? First week of July? We are we’re in the, I guess that means the second half of the year we’re doing it. We’re doing it. We’re now in Q3.

[00:00:23] Oh, everything’s gonna look brighter, shinier and better forget Q1 and Q2 of this year, they were junk. Things are gonna be completely new and fresh and a lot of nonprofits starting their new fiscal years. So, you know, you can, you can, re-plan based on the new information. Absolutely. I’m bullish on the success of Q3, but let’s go right into it.

[00:00:46] Our first story comes, uh, as we talk about an increasing trend, which is a national volunteer shortage, that’s threatening the stability of nonprofit programming. So as reported by AIOS nonprofits in Arizona in particular are having a hard time getting volunteers to come back compared. Pre COVID times.

[00:01:10] And while this represents a broader trend, the article talks about how nonprofits like the Ronald McDonald’s house charities of central and Northern Arizona say they may have to stop providing meals because of increased costs and lack of volunteers, some of the contributing factors or potentially higher gas prices.

[00:01:29] Coupled with fewer work associated volunteer events, as well as of course remaining concerns about COVID that may have contributed to the decrease in the first place. Um, so just a small anecdote, but from a trend that we’ve been tracking for a while that we know is occurring nationally, George, what’s your thoughts on.

[00:01:50] We talked about this early with volunteer match as well, the CEO, Greg Baldwin at the time of saying like, what are you seeing? And it, you know, it was clear that there were a lot more opportunities being posted than there were, uh, people necessarily filling them and to continue that. Into this year, corporate volunteering.

[00:02:09] Right? What does it mean when we’re not all in the office together, doing things together, local and community. What does it look like over time? As we have maybe moved away from central areas in certain communities? As part of the like work from work from home, the second order effects are, are pretty real where maybe people are staying inside or staying more local more often because of gas.

[00:02:31] Like all of those things add up. And then unfortunately, you know, we see where we see a few of these stories. There’s certainly many more, there’s another one in the California, um, reporting where they are saying like a local animal shelter, not having enough volunteers. So if you see these stories, as we do, we kind of pull ’em together and say like, there are some second order effects there.

[00:02:52] Yeah, absolutely. Something will continue to follow, but just wanted to call out again, is one of those bigger trends we like to talk about on this podcast? Yeah. The other piece, when you have fewer volunteers, a volunteer is, and this comes from the data inside of volunteer match, 10 times more likely to donate 10 times more likely to donate than somebody who’s not volunteered.

[00:03:11] So as you approach. Q4 knowing when you’re supposed to be getting and converting donors in particular at higher numbers. This can have that type of downstream effect as well on mid to small nonprofits with high volunteer dependencies and relationships that if you are volunteer, numbers are lagging. So two will probably your donation numbers when it comes that time of year.

[00:03:36] Definitely. All right, George, shall we move into the summary please? All right. Our first story is kind of a wild one, and this comes from the New York times. Um, the the title of this article is 76 fake charities, shared a mailbox. The IRS kept approving more. So it turns out this dude in Staten island kept on registering.

[00:04:01] Fake nonprofits, but kept getting them approved by the IRS. Um, so this guy’s registered nonprofits that don’t exist such as the United way of, um, Ohio. Which he registered outta Staten island, the American cancer society of Michigan, which was also registered outta Staten island and did this 70 to 80 times getting IRS approval each time.

[00:04:29] This is just one of those classic fascinating New York characters. Uh, he was kind of ha has a history of. Shady wall street pump and dump schemes in the eighties, worked with an associated of the Gambino crime family. And now is living in Manhattan. Uh, the reporters talk to him and he says that he regrets it and is now on the right path now.

[00:04:53] But the IRS approved these charities, which is pretty incredible. Um, and yeah, I guess this goes back to our, our story of not all nonprofits are good, but he ultimately did defraud people of approximately 150,000 in donations to these fake charities. That’s what they were for, for fraudulently, you know, siphoning, uh, donations away from legitimate charities, like the American cancer society.

[00:05:22] Uh, but yeah, kind of, kind of a wild tale. What’s your takeaway here, George, just to reiterate this statement. That is almost a mantra here at whole. Where, where, where it is just because you have a 5 0 1 C three does not mean you are doing good in this world. And this is Testament. So making sure that as a donor you’re checking the validity of the organization you’re donating to is crucial, but also here’s a powerful reminder for every nonprofit, especially those that rely on brand national.

[00:05:57] Brand and reputation. These are things that probably should have come up in a reputation, defense search and monitoring that should probably go on. If you’re the United way, you should have an eye on this. If you’re an American cancer cancer organization, you should have an eye on organizations that are popping up and looking to essentially.

[00:06:23] Mislead donors with brand, uh, adjacent and sort of mimicking your, your brand, uh, IP. And, you know, you work hard to create it. You should also spend capital time, money, whatever you wanna put towards that. You should spend that toward analyzing whether or not there are. These types of scams in there and, and file those cease desist, uh, letters and notices through there.

[00:06:50] Uh, the other piece here, which, you know, kind of, kind of resounded a little disturbingly on the nose for me is the quote that he had here is if you file something with an agency, he said, and they approve it. Do you think it’s illegal? So technically, I guess like the approving of it like happened, the IRS looked that and said like, yep, that looks right.

[00:07:12] 72 freaking times. Okay. The part where you get into illegal is raising funds under somebody else’s name that that’s, um, you know, uh, runs a but of false advertising, misrepresentation and fraud. Yeah, absolutely. And George, just back to your point about, uh, You know, that brand protection and awareness piece, this is a little less sinister, but might be a tangible piece of information for our listeners is that you should be every organization should Google themselves.

[00:07:44] In a search engine and see what comes up, um, because if you’re a larger or medium or larger size organization, there is a chance that a competitive a competitor organization is bidding against you. Uh, in terms of advertising. And again, not a little bit different. This is obviously all course kosher. It’s not illegal, it’s a strategy, but when it comes to brand protection, uh, that’s an important thing to do.

[00:08:10] How do you. Show up in Google search. How do you appear on the internet? Are there organizations with similar names that are kind of, uh, milking that similarity for, for what it’s worth, you know, and, and that, that kind of stuff is important. So I think you bring up a really good point, even if it’s totally above board and legitimate, still important to know what your competitors, who your competitors are and what they’re doing.

[00:08:34] Yeah. As if he didn’t have enough things to do, but there was real money associated with this, right. There was 150, $2,000 that didn’t find its way to those handful of charities. So what is the cost of, of not doing brand defense? You tell me

[00:08:48] wise is words. All right. I’ll take us into our next story. And this one is about a nonprofit calling out Tesla for not disclosing enough environmental data. Um, so. Uh, Tesla, of course, one of the, the. You know, most traded and talked about companies on wall street is being called out by an organization called CDP, which is a global nonprofit that runs an environmental disclosure system for companies, city, states, and regions.

[00:09:20] Um, and they’ve called out te Tesla for not disclosing, um, the environmental impact of their company along with other. Major companies that are, are traded. Um, Tesla got actually downgraded off of the S and P five hundreds ESG index last year, which is the environmental, social and governance index, which is supposed to be, uh, you know, presumably socially and environmentally conscious companies.

[00:09:47] And they actually got kicked off that list. LA last year, much to the chagrin of the company’s, uh, current chief executive. This is kind of interesting. And I think it’s important and goes into the narrative that nonprofits have a power and a legitimacy to call out companies that need to improve their practices for social and environmental reasons.

[00:10:10] And that this is getting picked up, I think is, uh, is definitely a good thing. We only need more accountability, not less. What I like about CDP is also that they are essentially leveraging corporate markets and structure to. Improved disclosures with regard to environmental impacts in a very real way.

[00:10:32] This isn’t just a article published over here on the side. This actually affects the way that your company is listed, which matters very much when you’re talking about how fund distributions work and how, you know, we mentioned DSG fund investing works. And I picked up on the story because I remember Elon Musk as with many things.

[00:10:53] Moaning on Twitter as he is, want to do, uh, about how organizations like Exxon are on an ESG list, but yet Tesla has fallen off. And frankly, I was wondering like how that happened and like, here you go. Like they aren’t disclosing how the organization is impacting and has an environmental footprint. And I think it’s important to note because on the surface, yeah, they have revolutionized and moved forward by orders of probably decades.

[00:11:19] The electric car movement in America. However, to just tell that story and not also talk about the net effects of lithium mining internationally, and what that actually means in the environment is a misstep. You, you sort of assume you’ve solved the problem by not looking at the process. And so I, I think a full disclosure of what that, uh, mineral extraction costs is, is important.

[00:11:45] You know, are we trading one evil for another. And to what level? So you went on the list, go disclose. Yeah, I agree. I think this is a case of don’t let perfect be the enemy a good, uh, but transparency is still important. Right. Um, so I totally agree with that. Take. all right. Our next story is that w three C is announcing plans to launch or relaunch as a non-profit organization.

[00:12:16] So w three C is, has to do with internet standards and governance, and they’re relaunching has a non-profit George, I’m just gonna toss this over. I just have a soft spot for, I, I grew up with looking at w three C training and learning materials and how they’ve guided the fundamental underpinnings of HTML and CSS, the things that make your websites bright, poppy sparkly, and, uh, friendly enough.

[00:12:44] It, it just is a, been a tremendous organization just in, you know, sort of my, uh, my journey in, in web. And I like seeing them turn to the social good. Uh, for, from the, for profit to the, uh, to the, to the nonprofit W3C was originally founded in 1994 by Tim burner’s Lee widely credited as the principal web inventor, much to the chagrin of others.

[00:13:11] claim claiming internet, uh, authority. Yeah, it’s a, it’s actually honestly amazing how much these kind of small organizations and most people have never heard of contribute so much to the infrastructure of the internet. Um, so, I mean, if you talk about accessibility, right? Like web accessibility standards that have allowed and made sure that folks that have, uh, issues with colorblindness or interested in web readers and the standards that have allowed, uh, the, a true diversity of individuals ranging of ability to access the evidence information.

[00:13:50] Like these are the folks that are helping look out for, for those as well. Absolutely. All right. Shall I take us into our next story? All right. This one is. Little controversial. I’ll put it out there. This was an opinion in the New York times. Um, and the opinion is that Democrats are having a purity test problem at exactly the wrong time.

[00:14:16] And the title I think is slightly misleading. And the reason it’s included on this summary is because it largely talks about progressive non-profits and. Civil society groups, um, and generally nonprofits and, and activist groups, uh, within the left. And the general thesis of this opinion is that there is a lot of tension between older, potentially more traditional, but also still liberal leaders of these organizations and younger, more diverse, uh, Up comers up and coming people in this organization who are pushing for change more aggression aggressively than their older counterparts.

[00:15:03] And the, uh, this particular opinion is that that tension, um, is causing turmoil at these organizations. And, you know, this is a point of view. It’s, it’s an opinion. Uh, but it’s certainly an interesting thing to chew on. And I know we’ve previously talked about a story here. A C L U uh, was kind of at this center of, uh, you know, fierce protection with simple liberties, which doesn’t always necessarily align with, uh, you know, progressive ideas and values, um, as just one kind of anecdote.

[00:15:36] Uh, but George, what, what’s your takeaway from this opinion? What should nonprofits be thinking about? Because whether or not you agree with this opinion or not, uh, I’m sure that this is coming up in some way or another. Tons of organizations

[00:15:52] first off, this is, uh, a difficult issue and to not talk about what any sort of policy brought and implemented to, uh, at an extreme, or even in the wrong way. And it’s in that potential negative effects, uh, is a misstep. So. I don’t know if this particular article nails all of it in the right way, but I think it’s an interesting conversation to have, and it does actually call, um, it does call in a lot of actual quotes from actual leaders and, you know, I’ll try to find one particular quote.

[00:16:30] We talked through this Ryan Grimm’s June 13th intercept piece elephant in the room, meltdowns have brought the progressive advocacy groups to a standstill at a critical moment in the world’s history. And so this assessment, you know, As you mentioned touches on the a C L U. They mentioned the gut mocker Institute.

[00:16:47] They talk to some people who are, um, you know, only were anonymously talking about the issue. And in one part, just to quote this. Article, uh, consultant who works primarily for nonprofit advocacy groups only spoke anonymously, uh, mentioned that in this quote, uh, she said regularly sees routine disputes over salaries and assignments turned into civil rights issues, making them extremely difficult to resolve under ordinary circumstances.

[00:17:18] The failure to give someone a raise, even when it is a black boss becomes a matter of structural racism. She said, and. It continues on with these sort of anecdotal points, I think, to try to prove a macro narrative that I personally need to see more data around. However, with that, you know, a number of citations in these issues and well known organizations, uh, that are clearly cherry picked, there can be a kernel of, of truth, where there is a, a sort of paralyzing inefficiency to the way that DEI might be.

[00:17:53] Sadly weaponized in certain situations where it doesn’t need to be. And whenever you misuse something, you’re actually doing a greater disservice to your true end goal, uh, than implementing it in the right way. But I think it’s, there’s a kernel of truth here where I think there are a lot of progressive organizations struggling with maintaining their mission.

[00:18:15] With a higher expectation of DEI, D E I B in, in the organization in the way they, they do work. And that’s not just from the senior level, but also at, it sounds like in this, the, the junior level of how you communicate these things without weaponizing them. To the detriment of the organization’s outcomes.

[00:18:34] It’s a complex issue, but to not talk about it, like you brought it in and you’re like, oh, I don’t know if we should pull it in. And I was like, this is fascinating. And, and maybe an important conversation and way for you to take this article and send it to your organization and be like, what do we think?

[00:18:48] Is there anything thing here? Yeah, George, I think that’s, that’s an interesting take. And kind of like the other side of this is they talk about, um, how. there’s did that, this tension between kind of the, the institutional, uh, structure of an organization and new people who are coming in to create change.

[00:19:08] And it talks about how just a lot of these organizations are undergoing really rapid change very quickly. Um, and that in and of itself, uh, Is potentially just bringing kind of these, these issues to the surface and something that a lot of, um, institutions are, are wrangling right now. Um, you know, I think some people would say for the better, some people would say to the detriment of mission, right.

[00:19:34] Uh, but either way, I think a really important, uh, opinion here. Um, definitely again, that and opinion, but, um, interesting conversation, nonetheless, and I am trying to also. Keep an eye on whether or not we’re talking about the perennial generational shift in work and power that plays out frankly, every 20, 30 years versus our.

[00:20:05] People just using at the executive level or at the opinion level, DEI is the broad brush for saying like, Hey, guess what? There’s a, you know, a generational power struggle happening. And this is just the, the way that we’re going to paint it as a narrative. And so I try to see as best I can. However, I, I think I’m, I’m probably too close to the problem.

[00:20:27] Speaking as somebody who straddles as an elder millennial in it.

[00:20:30] Yeah, it’s interesting. One of the things in there and George, this is not you, but, um, it said that boomers are the boomers are the whitest, uh, generation in American history. And it talks about how whiteness as a racial identity, wasn’t really cohesive until the boomers generation, right. A hundred years ago.

[00:20:51] It wasn’t. Are you white? It was, are you Italian? Are you Irish? And of course. There’s a lot of tension there. Um, but that organization. uh, that generation is some of the least diverse and gen Z is the most diverse. Um, and it talks about that, that imbalance now that gen Z’s entering the workforce, and it’s actually kind of really interesting.

[00:21:11] There’s lots of articles about gen Z, even on kind of less, uh, less challenging issues like about, you know, offices versus open floor plans. Um, Uh, that are coming into question it’s, it’s kind of interesting to see out. Um, I think there is, I think there is kind of a, a shift happening, but interesting.

[00:21:31] Interesting to say the least.

[00:21:32] All right, George, we’ve waited for this moment for so long. How about a feel, good story. Did we actually do it? Did we find feel good stories and I didn’t, uh, I didn’t let you down on my. no, we found a feel good story. Um, this one comes from the new Haven register and it talks about how 10 years after launch a nonprofit in Hamden has repaired 173 homes for veterans.

[00:22:01] Butch is incredible. Uh, veteran homelessness is one of the saddest and kind of most ingrained problems in this country. Um, but it talks. In this article, how one veteran, um, and, uh, the nonprofit is really working to, to help folks, uh, kind of get a leg out when it comes to housing. Uh, the organization is called house of heroes, um, and they do really great work.

[00:22:28] So just wanted to highlight an organization doing awesome work. Hundred 73 houses is awesome. And especially coming off of July 4th, where we celebrate our nation heroes and the people that have lost their lives for our freedoms, it is, uh, great nonprofit doing great things. So hats off hats off to them, little quote we ended with I’ll just shout it.

[00:22:50] The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity, Amelia Earhart. So I like this mindset of. Especially when things are maybe frustrating when you feel like there’s too many problems. Remember the difficult thing is that first step. And then, and then it’s about execution. So great words from a great woman.

[00:23:14] All right, Nick. See you out there. Thanks for the ongoing support and reporting. Of course. Talk next week.