Vantage Point Update

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Five years ago, we said it was time to redefine volunteerism.

Today, that is truer than ever. From our vantage point, the world is full of educated, experienced people who are eager to contribute time and talent to community organizations. The paradox is they often cannot find roles that allow them to contribute their skills and expertise in a meaningful way. Yet, we know not-for-profit organizations are looking to grow their human resources and social capital.

The Supply: Talented People

Today’s volunteers (we call them “knowledge philanthropists”) are looking for meaningful, time-specific projects. They want to make an impact and influence significant change in our organizations and in our communities. They are looking to be engaged as project managers, legal advisors, financial strategists, online marketing gurus, business coaches, human resource consultants and more. Unfortunately, they report great difficulty finding these opportunities, and as a result many choose not to volunteer.

The Demand: Not-for-Profit Organizations

Not-for-profit leaders are frustrated by a relentless search for resources–not having enough people or money to accomplish their goals. As a sector, we primarily continue to offer volunteer opportunities to perform routine tasks on a regular, predictable basis and wonder why we can’t find enough people. A lack of capacity (time and skills) to manage people (delegate, support and keep accountable) is cited as one of the main challenges to creating meaningful positions. It’s time to change this dynamic.

The Future: The Abundant Not-for-Profit

In the future, not-for-profit organizations that remain relevant and responsive to changing times will have organizational cultures and structures that strategically integrate an abundance of talented people. These Abundant Not-for-Profits will challenge the traditional notion that some roles are for salaried employees and other roles are for volunteers. Rather, knowledge philanthropists will be fully integrated into each level, function and activity of the organization.

Abundant Not-for-Profits will focus on:

  1. Volunteer engagement as a key sustainability strategy – starting at the board and executive level. Boards will recognize the people resources available to them in the community and set direction to capitalize on this opportunity.
  2. Requiring ALL employees to have people management and leadership skills by hiring for (and developing) the ability to delegate, coach, and create accountability. These skills will be part of all job descriptions and annual goals will include knowledge philanthropist engagement.
  3. Creating solid people policies and processes to grow the talent pool. This structure will provide direction, clarity and authority for employees to engage volunteers and will also attract top performers who seek an opportunity to contribute to a strong, well-run organization.

It’s time for a new people engagement strategy; one that allows us to more effectively deliver our missions. As a sector, we can hire talented people and pay them with meaning. This approach enables not-for-profit leaders to stretch their budgets and people resources much further, creating high-impact, sustainable and dynamic organizations.

This is a much overlooked path to sustainability.

One whose time has come.


Vantage Point has been in the business of people engagement for over 70 years. A not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada, we advocate for a new way of engaging talent that enables not-for-profits to expand competencies, stretch budgets and human resources, and create abundance.

We invite you to join a growing movement of leaders across North America who are reinventing their organizations and blazing a new path to abundance.  To join the conversation, download a free preview of our new book, The Abundant Not-for-Profit.

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