The Key to Weathering Tough Financial Times? Volunteers.

According to a study conducted by Campbell Rinker, a marketing research firm specializing in nonprofits, volunteers are nearly three times more likely to say they will cut back on other expenses before they stop giving (17 percent vs. 6 percent for non-volunteers) and nearly twice as likely to say that giving would be among the last of their expenses to go (13 percent vs. 7 percent for non-volunteers).

In addition, non-volunteers indicate they are nearly three times more likely to stop their giving in the current economic climate (15 percent vs. 6 percent) and more likely to pull back on giving (71 percent vs. 64 percent).

"With 7 out of 10 donors saying they are likely to give more sparingly or cautiously in the coming months because of the economy, these findings about the significance of volunteers are important," said Rick Dunham, President and CEO of Dunham+Company, a strategic consulting company for nonprofit organizations. "But charities need to apply these findings correctly. Our experience shows that charities quite often mistakenly believe that if they can motivate someone to become a volunteer that they will have an easier time converting that individual into a financial supporter of the charity.

"Although this does occur, what we find is that when donors volunteer it increases their commitment to the organization. So charities should find ways to motivate current financial supporters to invest time volunteering for the organization, which will move them into a deeper relationship with the charity. This in turn will motivate them to stay connected to the organization for a longer period of time and to give more."

The study shows that volunteers are much more willing to continue supporting a charity they have supported in the past (13 percent vs. 8 percent for non-volunteers), nearly three times as likely to increase their support for their house of worship (14 percent vs. 5 percent for non-volunteers) and give nearly three times as much per household each year ($3,488 vs. $1,300 for non-volunteers).

"The bottom line is charitable organizations would do well to find ways to engage their financial supporters in volunteer activities as there is clear evidence that such activity will lead to greater commitment and support of the charity," Dunham concluded.

The study was part of a Campbell Rinker Donor Confidence Survey of 497 adults nationwide who had donated at least $20 to charity in the previous 12 months. All responses were gathered online from Aug. 12-15, 2011. A sample of this size has a margin of error of +/-4.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Want to learn more? See dunhamandcompany.com for more information on the survey.

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