At The/Nudge Foundation, we absolutely love our volunteers. From just an idea a couple of months back to starting-a-pilot-in-days stage now, we’ve covered good distance, and almost all of this is thanks to our fabulous team of volunteers.
Overall, we’ve received 500+ volunteer applications from 5+ countries over the last 2 months. What is even more overwhelming for me is that most of these are people from the best organizations and colleges globally, with strong experience across product management, marketing, sales, design, fund-raising, business development, operations and finance. It has strengthened my belief in our inherent desire to see a better world and to actively contribute towards making it a reality.
However, I feel that we’ve just scratched the surface here, and we can create 10X the potential impact through our partnership with our volunteers. At The/Nudge Foundation, we’ve made quite a few adjustments in our Volunteer Program since we started, and are continuously learning and improving.
- The rational contract: having a clear minimum time commitment, and knowing where the time will come from.
Volunteers almost always have their heart in the right place, but despite the intent, many don’t make the trade-offs required to find time to contribute, and as a result, the overall time contribution lags far behind the commit. Even a commitment of 10-hours/week for 6 months is just about 1 month of cumulative work, and as we all know, the first month in any new job is almost always written off to allow people to settle down and absorb. So, we’ve started requesting volunteers to rationally calculate how much time they will practically be able to carve out, make a commitment, and only if that’s more than a month of cumulative work, we explore roles together.
- The role clarity, and skill-matching: having clear goals, and being able to utilize one’s skills and interest to achieve them.
In our enthusiasm to engage passionate volunteers, we brought them on-board without clear roles and expectations, and requested them to help in any role that needed immediate attention. Lack of role-clarity is a sure-shot recipe for disengaged volunteers. Lack of skill-fit is also super-inefficient for both volunteers and non-profits. We’ve learnt it the hard way and are now actively working towards bringing volunteers only after a very clear role in mind, clear expectations set together, and only after we assess the skill-fit and volunteers like the role and work. Volunteers really deserve this, and we need to help volunteers help us back by providing this clarity.
- The quality bar: who (has) ever made a big impact with sub-par work?
I’ve had a conversation with a super-talented volunteer who turned in sub-par work and said “but it’s just an NGO”. Shouldn’t our quality bar be even higher, if the work we’re doing can directly impact the lives of the under-privileged? At The/Nudge Foundation, we are working towards setting the bar as high as you’d ever see in the best of corporates. I know good volunteers can deliver on that, and as non-profits, we can really benefit from keeping our quality bar high.
I am sure as we cover more ground, we’ll keep refining our Volunteer Program, and will share our learnings along the way.
Till then, keep volunteering. Say firstname.lastname@example.org!
Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.
— Bruce Lee