5 Reasons to Outsource Instead of Rely on Volunteers
By: Melissa Lagowski
Founder, CEO and Queen Bee, Big Buzz Idea Group
Let’s start with this: We absolutely recognize the incredible value of volunteers. Without the work of volunteers, many organizations simply couldn’t do what they do so we applaud these generous people for their ongoing support and help.
That being said, in our work with nonprofits, we’ve also seen how beneficial it can be for an organization to outsource certain responsibilities to an agency. If you’ve had challenges with relying on volunteers for help, read on for five reasons outsourcing may be your best bet:
1. Continuity and Consistency
When you partner with a company, you can expect greater continuity and consistency. You’ll work with one person or one team who is dedicated to your organization on an ongoing basis (or for the duration of a project). With that, all the different touchpoints—that is, the various communication channels, materials or parts of a project—will have more consistency than if you worked with a rotation of volunteers. Consistency ensures nothing falls through the cracks and it projects a higher level of professionalism to anyone who comes in contact with your organization.
Outsourcing guarantees a commitment to the project and ensures you have help when you need it. Volunteers may have more unexpected conflicts, whereas by nature of having an established partnership, an agency won’t cancel or back out at the last minute. For example, our team recently assisted a client with a luncheon event, and on the day of the luncheon, one of our staff members was out sick. If this person were a volunteer, the client would be stuck finding someone else to help. But we worked to backfill so the client didn’t have to scramble. That reliability saves nonprofits so much time and stress.
3. Training and Experience
While volunteers have plenty of talents, a company comes with a certain level of experience and know-how. In many instances, outsourcing means you’ll work with individuals who come to the job already trained. This background allows them to jump right in, do the job right and troubleshoot with ease. We’ve seen firsthand how working with trained, experienced people translates to a smoother execution or more efficient work. More specifically, our team has an understanding of industry-specific regulations, technology and programs that many volunteers don’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) know.
Outsourcing to a company means you have help exactly when you need it. When projects ebb and flow with timing or needs, you don’t have to put extra time into drumming up volunteer help or hire another staff member for work that’s not really consistent. Many organizations only need additional resources on a seasonal basis or for an event lead-up. Tapping into one company that can step up or scale back as your needs change takes the guesswork out of it.
5. Time and Cost Savings
If your organization is like many nonprofits, you and your staff are often working at (or over) capacity. You don’t have the extra time or budget to train volunteers or correct inconsistencies. Partnering with a company produces a seamless experience that often translates to time and cost savings. As an example, prior to working with our team, volunteers at a Green City Market event didn’t understand certain rules and regulations and ended up giving out extra supplies, which ultimately cost the organization. The client was able to prevent this type of issue by having our team provide trained event staff to manage on-site volunteers. We’ve also provided training for more than 600 volunteers for Ribfest Chicago. When our team is trained in advance of events or fundraisers, the client only has to give that one-time training, rather than train every individual volunteer—a major time savings.
Now consider your organization’s needs and the key qualities that are a priority to you when bringing on help. Perhaps volunteers can fill those needs and embody those qualities. But if you’re looking for consistency, reliability, experience, flexibility and time and cost savings, outsourcing may be an avenue to explore. When outsourcing, it’s important to find a company or agency that’s a good match for your organization. The ideal partner will be committed to training and consistency, dedicated to your mission, and willing to act as an extension of your organization.