Volunteers With Special Skills, Round 2: How to Use Them

Usually when people around nonprofits talk about how important it is to recognize contributions of time, the Nonprofiteer smells a rat. "But I give my time!" is often the excuse made by nonprofit Board members for their failure to give or raise money, to which her response is, "You can't pay the light bill with time. You can't pay your staff with time. There are all kinds of volunteers at nonprofit agencies, but Board members are the volunteers who get to govern the group because they pay for it."

However, this piece from the indispensable Nonprofit Quarterly is actually making a different, and far more legitimate, point: that there are plenty of capable people out there who may be interested in adding value to your nonprofit with their time and their skills, and that nonprofits unprepared to make use of these people are throwing money down the drain. When the Nonprofiteer isn't being cranky about Board responsibilities, she's a great booster of high-skills volunteers--people who, without seeking a governance position, wish to help the agency redesign its Website or rewrite its fundraising appeals or rethink its fundraising events so they're fun AND newsworthy AND profitable.

If you don't have a wish list of "projects we'd get done if someone with the right skills came along," write one. That way, when someone frankly tells you she wants to give her time but not her money, you'll have something to offer other than, "Join the Board and we'll make an exception for you."

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    The Nonprofiteer is Kelly Kleiman, principal of NFP Consulting, which provides Board development, strategic planning and fund-raising services to charities and philanthropies. Through her consulting practice and in her guise as The Nonprofiteer, Kelly has spent the past 25-plus years helping small and mid-sized nonprofits organize themselves better and raise more money. These days she focuses especially on helping them use high-skill volunteers. Kelly is also a lawyer and freelance journalist whose reportage and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and other dailies; in magazines including In These Times and Chicago Philanthropy; in the alternative press; on websites including the Huffington Post; and on the radio, including the BBC and WBEZ Chicago Public Radio. She and her fellow "Dueling Critic" Jonathan Abarbanel present a weekly podcast of their reviews of Chicago theater at DuelingCritics.net. Earlier in her career she was dean of admissions of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and Executive Director of the Chicago Children’s Choir, and practiced real estate and zoning law with the firm of Rudnick & Wolfe. Kelly holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Chicago. She was a founding Board member of the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits and also served for 5 years on the Board of the Association for Women Journalists–Chicago. She can be reached ("Dear Nonprofiteer . . .") at KellyNFP@yahoo.com.

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