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Heidi Unruh
NACSW 2010
Durham, NC
     Role of faith-based volunteers
• Over 80% of charitable nonprofits use volunteers
• About a third of nonprofits partner with religious organizations
  (including 15 percent of nonprofits identified as secular)
• Nonprofits partnering with religious nonprofits report a greater
  scope of volunteer use and greater benefits from volunteers
• Three fourths of adult volunteers attend religious services
• One third of adult volunteers learned about service
  opportunities through their congregation
• About one fourth of youth who attend religious services also
  volunteer regularly
• Summary – in general:
   – Most nonprofits rely on volunteers
   – People with active religious commitments are more likely to
      volunteer for both religious and secular organizations
   – Organizations that use religious volunteers experience
      greater benefits from their volunteers
                (Volunteer Management Capacity Study)
     What you will .. and won’t …
            learn today
General volunteer mobilization and management
 best practices (regular supervision and
 communication with volunteers, written policies
 and job descriptions, feedback, recognition, etc.)
Management dynamics related specifically to
 faith-based volunteers. Learning to better
 understand and engage religiously motivated
 volunteers translates into better delivery of
 benefits for the community as well as more
 fulfilling experiences for the volunteer.
                     Learning goals
Develop an appreciative understanding of:
1. The variety of ways faith motivates, guides and gives meaning to
   volunteer service.
2. The scope and benefits of faith-based volunteer support for
   community nonprofits.
3. How religious elements in a nonprofit's history and culture informs
   strategies for mobilizing volunteers from the faith community.
4. How to communicate constructively with volunteers about
   expectations and policies related to religion.
5. Strategies for enriching the participation of faith-based volunteers
   through opportunities for training, reflection, and dialogue.
6. The call for organizations to relate to religious volunteers not
   merely as resources to be used but as whole persons.
          Research source:
   Faith and Organizations Project

• Case studies of 81 organizations to understand how faith
  based nonprofits and their sponsoring faith communities
  sustain their relationships.
• Compared strategies across religious traditions and
  among a variety of FBOs.
• See Maintaining Vital Connections Between Faith
  Communities and their Nonprofits:
  Who are faith-based volunteers?
• Many volunteer in congregation-based service activities: 83%
  of congregations sponsor service projects; 91% of these use
  volunteers from the congregation
• Many volunteer for faith-based nonprofits linked with a
  congregation or faith community: 73% of FBOs partner with a
  religious organization
• Some volunteer for secular organizations with ties to their
  faith community: 15% of secular nonprofits partner with a
  religious organization
• Some religious individuals work in secular settings: people
  who regularly attend religious services are more likely to
  volunteer for secular as well as faith-based organizations.
• Some work for organizations that are intentionally interfaith.
       Volunteer Management in America’s Religious Organizations
         (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2004)
 Why do people of faith volunteer?
In general, faith directs volunteers to care about others’
welfare and to seek justice.
• Christian volunteers experience the link between faith and
  service in various ways – some themes are shared and some
  are unique to each faith tradition:
   o Evangelicals tend to cite a Scriptural mandate and to point
     to Christ’s example of compassion;
   o Mainline Protestants are more likely to echo the biblical
     prophets’ call for justice and to walk in the social gospel
   o Quakers may be led by an inner sense of personal calling;
   o Catholics draw on a rich tradition of church social teachings
     and may be inspired by saints who gave their lives in
 Why do people of faith volunteer?
• In the African American context, participation in church-
  sponsored community service may be viewed as an
  extension of church membership, as an arm of the
  church’s mission of social uplift and empowerment.
• In the Jewish tradition, every community member has a
  responsibility to support those in need through
  commandments to do justice and provide charity
  (tzedakah) and engage in acts of compassion (chesed).
  Service not only expresses individual faith but
  strengthens the bonds of the community of the faithful.
 Why do people of faith volunteer?
In addition to motivating service, faith can be deepened or
strengthened by service.
• Service may be perceived as a spiritual discipline,
  bringing one closer to God. Some religious traditions
  emphasize encountering the presence of God in those
  who are served.
     “Working for the Jewish community or working for the good of
     humanity is equivalent to being in prayer”
• Volunteering can be viewed as an embodied declaration
  of gratitude, devotion, or worship.
     “I have always seen involvement in the community as an integral
     part of expressing one's faith.”
• Volunteering alongside others of faith is a way of
  participating in religious community.
 Why do people of faith volunteer?
Some religious traditions also seek to share faith through
service, either directly or indirectly.
• Some Christian volunteers are motivated by the goal of
  evangelism. They hope that service opens the door to
  explicitly sharing the gospel with beneficiaries.
• Volunteers may also be motivated by the desire to build
  personal relationships that earn trust and credibility for
  their faith.
• Other volunteers believe they best share faith by
  demonstrating their beliefs in action – their acts of
  compassion speak for themselves.
      Volunteers and organizational
           religious character
• Volunteers’ experiences with a nonprofit may be influenced by
  its religious character, whether formal and/or informal.
• Formal ties to religion may include: religious mission
  statement, partnership or affiliation with a religious group,
  religious requirements for hiring, and religious activities
  incorporated into programs
• Nonprofits may also reflect informal or embedded religious
  influences (values/expressions that may not be explicitly
  articulated, but help define the particular faith community):
   o A history of religious influences in the founding story
   o Religiously-inspired values that impact service delivery
   o Informal linkages with a faith community that draw faith-
     motivated staff and volunteers
   o Styles of communication, decision-making and leadership that
     reflect the culture of a religious tradition
      Volunteers and organizational
           religious character
• Volunteers often play different roles in different religious
   o Mainline Protestant: Volunteering is typically channeled
     through church-sponsored programs or spin-off nonprofits.
     The faith element is often more implicit in the act of service
     rather than explicitly expressed.
   o Evangelical: Volunteers are often drawn through
     attachment for a particular faith-based cause or leader.
     Nonprofits may expect volunteers to participate in the
     religious mission.
   o Jewish: Volunteerism is a religious duty, but service may
     or may not be channeled through the religious community.
  Benefits of faith-based volunteers
Practical benefits of volunteers overall:
• 38% of faith-based nonprofits have a large scope of
  volunteer use (rely on more than 50 volunteers a year
  serving more than a total of 50 hours in week); 25% of
  secular nonprofits use this level of volunteers. (Volunteer
  Management in America’s Religious Organizations)
• The estimated value of volunteering in the U.S. in 1996
  was estimated at $203 billion. (Eleanor Brown, Assessing the
  Value of Volunteer Activity, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 1999)
• Many nonprofits simply could not do what they do
  without volunteers.
 Benefits of faith-based volunteers
Unique benefits of faith-based volunteers:
• Promote agency visibility and legitimacy within religious
  institutions and networks
• Help reinforce an agency's connection with its historic
  religious roots
• Strengthen the religious component of an organization's
• Provide opportunities for leadership development in the
  faith community
1. Seek to understand and affirm the faith motivations
   of volunteers.

   Volunteering in a faith-based context is a two-way
   street: Volunteers enable the organization to carry out
   its mission at minimal cost; the nonprofit supplies an
   avenue for volunteers to express their spiritual values.
   Emphasizing the reciprocal nature of this relationship
   strengthens the ties between a nonprofit and its faith
          Benefits of understanding
Value to nonprofit leaders and supervisors of understanding
the connection between volunteers’ faith and involvement:
• Volunteers’ faith orientation may be different from yours, so
  there may be assumptions or misunderstandings to overcome.
• Respecting volunteers’ faith perspective is one ingredient in a
  strong working relationship.
• Appreciating the value added by faith can help you to attract and
  retain volunteers from the faith community.
• Understanding religious motivations can help you craft a service
  experience that is a meaningful outlet for volunteers’ faith.
• You can be more intentional about encouraging volunteers to
  integrate spirituality and service, thus enriching their experience.
• Knowing volunteers’ faith background helps you better
  communicate the organization’s religious culture and policies.
        Benefits of understanding
… But don't allow reliance on the faith motivations of
volunteers to be a substitute for excellence in volunteer
recruitment and management practices!

 “The greatest challenges that charities and congregations face
   is an inability to dedicate staff resources to and adopt best
 practices in volunteer management. … Despite the willingness
       of charities and congregations to take on volunteers,
    challenges prevent them from meeting their full potential.”
- Volunteer Management Capacity in America's Charities and
Congregations (Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 2004)

(See resources for volunteer management in faith-based settings at
2. Help volunteers integrate faith and service.
• Provide faith-based volunteers with opportunities to integrate
  their spirituality and their work, in a manner that best suits
  your organization's religious culture.
• Integration opportunities include training, reflection, and
  dialogue on the religious aspects of volunteers' service
  activities and the nonprofit's mission.
• Recognize that not all volunteers want to discuss their faith
  openly. Less overt ways of helping remind volunteers weave
  religious meaning into their work include symbols or rituals (a
  cross, iconic images, times of silent prayer or meditation).
• Offer to include volunteers in spiritually enriching group
  activities, such as prayer circles, devotionals, or Bible studies.
3. Communicate with volunteers on faith matters.
• Communication is a vital factor in any volunteer program. For
  nonprofits that rely on volunteers from the faith community, it is
  particularly important to be able to communicate on matters
  relating to faith.
• Offer channels and styles of communication that resonate with
  the supporting faith community.
• Provide volunteers with an orientation to the agency's religious
  roots, values, and culture.
• Clarify guidelines for how volunteers can express and witness
  to their faith, appropriate to your organizational culture, context
  for service, and funding restrictions.
• Maintain consistency between formal expectations and policies
  relating to religion, and day-to-day informal practices.
             Faith-related policies
• Articulate specific volunteer policies that relate to faith, in
  order to prevent unnecessary conflict. For example:
   o What if anything is expected of volunteers in terms of
     representing the religious character of the organization
     (e.g. dress, lifestyle, religious speech)?
   o What is the organization's stance toward volunteers from a
     different religion, or no religion (e.g. would an Evangelical
     organization welcome a visibly Muslim volunteer)?
   o If the organization includes volunteers from multiple faiths,
     how are volunteers expected to deal with religious diversity
     and relate to one another?
   o If the organization sponsors explicitly religious activities,
     what participation is expected of volunteers (e.g. attending
     chapel services or prayer times)?
4. Develop appropriate strategies for mobilizing
   volunteers from the sponsoring faith community.
Building connections with the faith community can include:
o   personal invitations from nonprofit staff / volunteers to co-congregants;
o   notices in religious publications;
o   emails / letters to members of congregations or other religious bodies;
o   notices printed in church bulletins or announced in worship services;
o   personal visits by nonprofit staff to religious services or meetings of
    the faith community;
o   volunteer opportunities posted on websites or blogs followed by
    people in the faith community;
o   requests through denominational channels;
o   information sessions or "ministry fairs" held at congregations;
o   internships from religious schools;
o   special events such as a concert or arts festival co-sponsored with the
    faith community.
            Recruitment strategies
The religious culture of the faith community will affect the
choice of connection strategies.
• Faith traditions with a strong centralized organizational structure
  (Jewish, Catholic) often work through a centralized volunteer
• In the Mainline Protestant, African American or Quaker faith
  traditions, congregations and denominational structures may
  play a greater role.
• Among Evangelicals, personal networking and religious media
  are often likely to be most effective.
Religious culture similarly influences the most effective form
of volunteer management. The same channels for sharing
volunteer requests can often be used for communicating
volunteers' feedback and ideas to the agency.
5. Care for volunteers.
Nonprofits founded on the religious value of caring for others
  should apply this principle to their volunteers.
• See volunteer management not only as a matter of efficacy, but
  as a part of the mission of the organization.
• Treat volunteers not just as resources to be used but as whole
  persons: identify spiritual, social, relational and emotional needs
  that the organization can help to meet.
• Provide opportunities for volunteers who would not consider
  themselves religious to connect with a faith community.
• For youth volunteers, recognize the potential for making service
  a life-transforming experience.
• Care for volunteers by providing adequate training and
  resources so that they do not burn out.
(See e.g. Michael Sherr, Social Work with Volunteers (Lyceum Books, 2008)
          Take-home conclusion
When nonprofit leaders understand and appreciate how faith
    motivates and guides service, they are better able to
 connect with volunteers as whole persons, nourishing the
     spiritual and personal aspects of their involvement.
  In this way, engaging volunteers can become a mutually
enriching exchange, rather than a merely utilitarian resource
 management strategy. Integrating the service of volunteers
 in a way that affirms their faith commitments and enriches
   their experience allows volunteers and FBOs to thrive.

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