Converting good intentions in to greater impact

Investing in High Impact Volunteer Engagement: A Funder’s Perspective

Investing in High Impact Volunteer Engagement: A Funder’s Perspective

By Jane Leighty Justis, executive director of The Leighty Foundation and Reimagining Service Council member

The events of the last few years have changed our country’s landscape – at least for the foreseeable future. A crippled economy has caused escalating needs and dramatically shrinking financial resources. Nonprofit organizations will be required to engage communities in new ways to accomplish their missions in the wake of these tsunami-like changes. One of the chief strategies that the Leighty Foundation is seeing in response to this challenging economic climate is a renewed interest from nonprofits to fully engage volunteers to serve as critical resources.  The Leighty Foundation, a long-time believer in the effectiveness of volunteer engagement, made a commitment to fund the 18-month Pikes Peak Volunteer Engagement Initiative that aimed to increase the volunteer capacity of 22 organizations. We funded organizations like TESSA of Colorado Springs that relies heavily on volunteers to contribute to its mission of ending domestic and sexual violence. While volunteers at TESSA have always been an important part of its service delivery, the leadership of the organization, including its board of directors, made a forward-thinking decision to critically examine the experience of volunteers and identify areas for improvement and expansion. With the help of the Leighty Foundation funding, TESSA made some notable changes like: redefining the ideal volunteer profile, prioritizing self-care for volunteers, and reducing the number of trainings offered. In turn, these changes have had a direct connection with the overall impact of the organization’s mission including an increase in the availability of volunteer advocates. You can read more about TESSA’s experience in a case study on volunteer engagement by Reimagining Service; additionally, there is another newly-released case study featuring Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado that also offers some useful tips.

As funders we must recognize that one of the best returns on our investments in our grantees will come from growing their capacity to mobilize their volunteer resources for the greatest possible impact on a problem or need. The result is value added: to organizational stability, mission accomplishment and community strength. Our investment can provide the staffing, training and resources needed to empower organizations and communities to meet the diverse needs of this new age before us.

For more information on the work our foundation and others are doing in this arena, go to: and