New Revenue Producer – Charge your Volunteers?

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March 9, 2011; Source: |  Update 6-1-11: On April 21st, the SDHFH Board of Directors agreed to repeal the policy that charged volunteers $100 a head to participate in its building projects.

We missed this story when it was published three weeks ago but thought it was an interesting spin. In San Diego, Habitat for Humanity is charging volunteers $100 a head to participate in its building projects. In this article the responses from the volunteers are way less than enthusiastic.

Patricia and Morgan Gallo, a mother and daughter who worked with a group of mothers and daughters called SPRITES say that they will never again volunteer with Habitat and the volunteer who was charged with coordinating corporate volunteers is said to have “quit in disgust” at the new policy.

The group’s officer of development, Chris Marek, however, thinks the strategy holds water as a revenue producer and points to the fact that many charity walks and runs charge participants. “We have to be creative to find ways to increase funding,” he says. The organization launched the strategy in January.

Thanks to the ARNOVA list serv for pointing us to this story.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Brooks Kelley

    I have been part of volunteer projects where had to pay some for the opportunity of building. Once was heading south to build after Katrina with one group. Also for the Jimmy Carter Build for Habitat for Humanity althogh I only had to travel a short distance to it (25 miles). The local Habitat here requires the money to afford the buildings although that is at the group level. The group had to raise $60,000 to be able to build a house. It was not strictly a pay to volunteer. The committed volunteers probably contribute already so it probably is not an issue. Others, although they can volunteer their time, may not be in the financial position to be able to donate to have the opportunity to volunteer and may not wish to admit it. One thus can lose some potential support possibly for the future also as they become disconnected with the organization.

  • Susan C. Ruderman

    “Pay to play” perverts the meaning of volunteerism. All non-profits need to be constantly identifying revenue streams, but don’t call it volunteerism if there are mandatory fees, even nominal ones. It seems more akin to eco-tourism than to genuine volunteering. I also find the growing trend of “processing fees” being required for even applying to volunteer to be short-sighted. You may gain income, but that small amount is usually offset by the loss of goodwill. I am 100% in support of *soliciting* volunteers for annual fund–preferably with a nod towards their volunteer service in the solicitation vehicle. But requiring a $10 “donation” in order to *apply* to volunteer–never mind the Habitat example of paying to work on a project–is just petty!

  • Rere

    Why would they charge participants who are donating time and energy directly to the cause of Habitat? How much would Habitat pay construction workers? The breast walks are not producing anything of value by walking alone. Walking alone is not going to pay for a research scientist. Donations make sense for walks.
    I blame the leadership. Maybe this was done to demonstrate that someone is asleep at the wheel. They need to return every dime.

  • Ellen Imergut

    It is true that in January, San Diego Habitat for Humanity (SDHFH)leadership created a policy to ask volunteers to donate $100 per person for build days that included 5 or more people. On April 21st, the SDHFH Board of Directors agreed to repeal this policy. There are still wonderful opportunities for groups, corporate and otherwise, to provide sponsorship dollars to make their build day even more impactful in the community, but it is not a requirement any longer.

    The original intent of the policy was not to drive away volunteers, but to find creative ways in which to increase funding to allow our affiliate to continue building affordable homes for families in need. Over the past year, in partnership with our hardworking homeowner families, financial sponsors and dedicated volunteers, we have built
    20 homes in San Diego County.

    We want to accommodate all who wish to help us make a difference in our communities and our volunteers, whether financial donors or not, have a tremendous impact in helping us fulfill our mission.