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Nonprofits in the Know
Why I Volunteer
-Alice Shipman, Sarasota, FL

I volunteer my time because, frankly, the world can be a pretty screwed-up place. None of us have the power to fix everything in one fell swoop, but we can still help. It may be contained to the one person sitting in front of us today, but we can keep pushing at it and build up momentum up for the bigger changes.

There's a quote by Edward Everett Hale that I've always liked:
But still, I am one. 
I cannot do everything, 
But still, I can do something; 
And because I cannot do everything, 
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. 

Why do people give?

Does it matter why people give of their time and resources to help nonprofit organizations achieve their mission? Since there could be many possible reasons, the obvious answer would be, “of course!”

Maybe someone wants to change the world for the better, or they want all puppies to have a safe home, or they want the positive recognition that comes with being a major philanthropist. People give because they believe it is their religious duty. They give because they believe human beings should help one another, or because they like beautiful art and music. Some give because their friends do.

It isn’t just money that people are donating either. They are sharing their time, their passion, their business expertise, and their very selves.

So why would the answer to the question, “Does it matter why people give?” ever be no? Because, from a nonprofit professional’s prospective, it is not our job to judge people’s motivations for giving. It is our job to be the vehicle that enables a donor’s or volunteer’s gift of time or money to support the important work of our organization. Whether someone is giving to receive a tax write-off, to see their name in the society pages, or because their faith requires tithing, it doesn’t make their giving any more or less important than what is donated by people motivated by the mission.

What IS important for a nonprofit professional to do, however, is to recognize and understand what motivates our donors to give. How is that different? Well, we don’t want to judge someone’s reason for giving as “good or bad”, but we do need to understand each particular donor’s or volunteer’s catalyst so that we may help them find the path to giving that coincides with their motivations and desires.

The end result should always be the benefit of the organization and the people, animals, arts, or environment it serves. As a nonprofit professional, I can say I am simply grateful for the investments of time and resources provided by people in our communities, and believe it is part of my job to make them feel as good about giving as the organization feels good about receiving.

- Tracy Vanderneck, MSM, CFRE
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