Volunteerism: Creating a Win-Win

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Dec 18, 2012 | Blog

This time of year many people are motivated to volunteer. Yes, the holidays and the start of a new year create a desire in people to “give back”, but giving back isn’t the only reason people are motivated to volunteer. We at Vantage Point have been saying for years (sometimes we feel like a broken record) that volunteerism isn’t 100% altruistic. A win-win is required for the engagement to be successful. Here’s an excerpt from the Abundant Not-for-Profit about how to create a win-win each time you engage a knowledge philanthropist:

Knowledge Philanthropists – how it is win-win

The practice in many not-for-profit organizations, when they engage talented volunteers is to pay them an honorarium. We want to say clearly: “Attention everyone! Forget honorariums.” Talented volunteers are not coming to your organization for below-market-rate token payments. Pay them with the intangible benefits that motivated their contribution to the organization in the first place. Those benefits include an opportunity to make an investment in their community, a chance to learn, a way to be part of an excellent organization, a venue to meet new people, and an opportunity to be curious and have their own unique role. Pay them with meaning.

Knowledge philanthropists seek an engagement with the organization, because they are motivated to contribute to community for some reason. It is important at the beginning to have the knowledge philanthropists articulate what attracted them to this role in this organization. Why do they want to contribute their skills? What is in it for them? Then the win-win for the knowledge philanthropist is simply about meeting their motivation. That is the payment the organization provides to them.

A tool salaried employees can use in a people lens organization is Ivan Scheier’s Window of Work (pictured above). This tool provides salaried employees with information about the knowledge philanthropists, what motivates them and what they want to learn. It is a simple instrument to determine whether the person is a good fit with the role the organization has for them:

Wise Why’s is about passion – the reasons they are personally passionate about the organization’s mission/cause.

Glad Gifts are skills the person gives happily to the organization. That is usually where there is excellence.

No-No’s are the tasks and areas where they truly do not want to work. The task will not be done with excellence if the people do not enjoy it.

Yearn-to-Learn is largely about motivation. The people who come to your organization have a desire to learn.

The challenge for the organization is to take the knowledge philanthropist’s talents, skills and assets and transfer those to something that works for the knowledge philanthropist, AND works for the organization.


More than a decade in the making, The Abundant Not-for-Profit will allow you to exponentially increase your impact while building long term organizational sustainability. Sign up today to receive exclusive content, special discounts – and be the first to know when the book is released.

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Vantage Point

Our mission is to transform not-for-profit organizations by convening, connecting, and equipping leaders to lift organizational capacity. Every client leaves our programs with resources to excel in their role and grow the impact of their organization.

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