During our recent webinar, It’s Budget Season. Is Your Volunteer Program Ready?, Amy Lytle, Executive Director of HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, provided insights and tips for volunteer managers to make a compelling case to the “higher ups” in their organization for the budget they need to run a truly effective volunteer program. We covered a lot during the webinar and received an extremely helpful tutorial on ROVI (Return on Volunteer Investment) and how it can be used to make the case for increased investment. But let’s take a moment to remember what can happen to our volunteer programs if we fail to make a compelling case and do not get the funding we require.

The 5 Pitfalls of Underinvestment

1. Not being able to attract volunteers

Without a proper investment in your volunteer program, you may find that you are unable to attract the quantity and quality of volunteers you need to successfully achieve your mission.

2. Staff (un)-cooperation

When staff is not appropriately trained to work with volunteers – and don’t understand the roles volunteers should play in the organization – they can sometimes be unwilling to work cooperatively with volunteers. Dollars should be allocated to making sure staff members know the ins and outs of the volunteer program, what is expected of them, and how to work well with their volunteer “colleagues.”

3. Not being able to retain volunteers

Perhaps you will still be able to recruit enough volunteers even without increased funding. But will they keep coming back? If you do not have an organized and well-run volunteer program, you may find that volunteers start volunteering – and then stop showing up shortly thereafter (“voting with their feet”). This could also happen if you do not show volunteers that you appreciate what they do for your organization.

4. Always fighting for more money

If you don’t currently get the right investment in your volunteer program, you probably don’t have a good ROVI. And without a good ROVI, it’s difficult to show that the volunteer program is worth additional investment. It becomes a vicious cycle – you always have to fight for every dollar you get.

5. Not getting the respect you deserve

When leadership doesn’t value the volunteer program, it means the staff roles associated with the program (e.g. the volunteer managers) are the first ones cut if and when the organization experiences financial difficulties.


Of course, you value and understand the importance of your volunteer program for your organization. These 5 pitfalls listed above are the very reasons it is essential to be well-prepared to make the case for the budget we need. We have a bunch of helpful tools for you to use to get ready for budget season. Access the Budgeting section of the Volunteer Management Resource Center.

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