CalNonprofits Articles

Paul Revere made his living as a silversmith, but everyone remembers him for what he did as a volunteer (thank you Susan Ellis).

It’s National Volunteer Month and most Americans agree: volunteers are priceless, whether mobilizing the Americans against the British Redcoats in 1772, comforting the dying, mentoring traumatized children, or risking their lives to stop toxic dumping. So much of the work that nonprofits do in our communities is done by volunteers: volunteers outnumber staff at nonprofits of all sizes, and an amazing 70% of California nonprofits are all-volunteer organizations.  In 2017 nearly 77.4 million Americans donated 6.9 billion volunteer hours


Return on investment (ROI) and a rate you can use

A 2013 report by economists at Columbia University demonstrated that for every dollar invested in national service, almost $4 is returned to society in higher earnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits. And every year Independent Sector calculates the average value of one volunteer hour and publishes a national average as well as state-specific averages. This year the national average is $25.43 and California’s average is $29.95 per hour. Nonprofits can use this information to demonstrate community support for their work. 

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)

In spite of the popularity of volunteering and the vital work that volunteers do, for the last three years, the Trump Administration has proposed budgets that would eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps, and Senior Corps. Fortunately, Congress disagrees with the Trump administration and last year added $13 million to AmeriCorps’ budget and $6 million to the budget for Senior Corps, bringing the budget for CNCS to just over $1 billion.

CNCS is now focused on a new Transformation and Sustainability Plan that includes closing all the state AmeriCorps offices and consolidating them into one office for each of the nine federal regions (that means one office for Region IX which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada.) It remains to be seen if this is an improvement that will streamline the program and make it more effective, or if it will create bottlenecks that make it more difficult for volunteers and nonprofits both.

California funding now available for volunteering in disaster preparedness

The AmeriCorps and emergency preparedness volunteer programs in California are overseen by California Volunteers within the Office of the Governor, supported by a 25-member bipartisan Commission. On April 15th Governor Newsom announced California For All Emergency Preparedness Campaign grants to empower communities and engage one million vulnerable Californians around emergency preparedness.

The joint campaign between California Volunteers and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) will invest $50 million directly into the community to bolster local resiliency and connect one million diverse and vulnerable Californians to culturally and linguistically competent support.

“The worst of our reality spurred by growing threats of disaster brings out the best of who we are as Californians: Rising to serve. And, the governor’s strategy builds upon this truth,” said Karen Baker, California’s Chief Service Officer and head of California Volunteers.

In disasters -- whether natural or manmade -- nonprofits are always first and second responders. This funding can help your nonprofit strengthen networks in your community to make those responses even stronger. Grants are available now on California Volunteers’ website.

P.S. Financial accounting for volunteer time and non-cash donations are still a matter of dispute and occasionally proposed legislation. For more information on how to include volunteer time in your financial statements, see this article by CPA Dennis Walsh

And to stay on top of policy matters related to volunteerism and non-cash donations, join our mailing list

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