Biz tip of the week: Nonprofits should align volunteers' talents, roles
Biz tip of the week

Biz tip of the week: Nonprofits should align volunteers' talents, roles

Nonprofit organizations and traditional businesses have a lot in common. They both must manage areas like human resources, marketing, accounting and operations. They also should have a strategic plan, set goals and track results. Finally, they must be solvent and sustainable.

One big difference has to do with human resources, especially when the nonprofit is staffed entirely with volunteers. In a perfect world, volunteers should be allowed to do the tasks they enjoy doing. In reality, a small percentage of the volunteers end up doing the majority of the work. This forces the contributors to do tasks they may not enjoy, and may require them to donate more time than they expected.

Over an extended period of time, this leads to excessive turnover. Excessive turnover significantly reduces productivity and adds additional responsibilities to the remaining volunteers.

Nonprofits should do everything possible to align the interests of the volunteer to the tasks they are asked to do. All too often they arbitrarily assign tasks to the volunteers without consideration of their interests and passions.

Imagine a nonprofit volunteer who loves marketing and business development, and is extremely talented. The nonprofit desperately needs a treasurer, however, so they ask the marketing expert to become the treasurer. A sense of obligation forces the volunteer to accept the position, even though that person does not enjoy working with numbers.

Wouldn’t the organization have been better served recruiting a new volunteer with a passion for bookkeeping, and let the marketing expert do what he or she does best?

One final bit of advice for nonprofits: When you have talented volunteers with a great idea who are willing to spearhead the effort, let them. Why wouldn’t you?

Now imagine if traditional businesses aligned areas of responsibility with their employees’ talents and passions, too. Do you think they would see increased productivity and less employee turnover?

Bill Nordbrock is vice president of community relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment. For information, go to, send an email to or call 505-3636.

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