Tapping into Experience: Skill Based Volunteering

by Mary Keen

We are a nation of volunteers, with many regular citizens nourishing their desire to “give back” by volunteering in traditional ways. But a new phenomenon, due in part to the gradual retirement of the Boomer generation, is the growing number of very skilled, self-motivated and highly-educated persons in nonprofit volunteer pools. For them, Skill Based Volunteering (SBV) is an excellent way to feel fulfilled.

What is Skill Based Volunteering? As its name implies, SBV requires specialized education, skills or training. It’s a particularly effective model that uses a person’s valuable intellectual capital and wealth of experience in a different capacity–as a volunteer. SBV can include individual volunteers, corporate volunteers, groups or  interns. It can involve work on a variety of projects, for different lengths of time and during working hours or free time. SBV can
require all types of skills and talents from those acquired through professional experience or through interests and hobbies. SBV is also a valuable professional development skill. And it provides rewards for  an organization: The United Way values traditional volunteering that does not require training at about $18 to $20 an hour; it values a Skill Based volunteer’s time at $40 to $500 an hour.

Organizations are finding that they must be prepared for Skill Based volunteers who do not care to volunteer in traditional ways. According to the United Way, skilled volunteers “will not find the same fulfillment in packing food boxes or stuffing envelopes that they did from utilizing the skills and talents required by their careers.” However, such utilization is still in its early stages. According to Points of Light Foundation, of the 62 percent of agencies that work with skilled volunteers, only 12 percent of them make an effort to align roles with skills. This gap means that many organizations miss out on a precious resource—the talent of seasoned leaders and teams who could use their skills and expertise to help improve the operations and services of nonprofits. CJE has utilized Skill Based volunteers in the past, just not in a formal way. For example, a physical therapist brought her skills to
Lieberman Center and led an exercise group for a period of time.

In response to the need for anofficial volunteer program for highly-skilled workers, CJE has recently launched its own Skill Based Volunteering Program. CJE’s Volunteer Department has had requests by volunteers for a higher level of work but has been challenged at times to find the right match: connecting a volunteer with the right skills to the right project at the right time. Something easier said than done.

That’s why CJE and Mather LifeWays, an organization in Evanston that also provides programs and residences for older adults, joined forces to create a program called Tap Into Experience (TIE). The program is two-pronged: it’s designed to ready nonprofits for Skill Based volunteering at the same time that it helps volunteers to tap into their life experiences and use those experiences as volunteers. The potential rewards for CJE and volunteers are considerable.

CJE offers our Skill Based volunteers active participation in our organization with ongoing support and feedback from staff members. All Skill Based volunteers will have access to a phone and computer and dedicated office space. Hours are flexible. See the inset below for our current SBV opportunities and call our Volunteer Services Department at 773.508.1064 to inquire about any of them.


Got Skills?
CJE Skill-Based Volunteer Opportunities Synagogue Outreach Representative—uses communication and promotion skills to make calls and be the first point of contact with synagogues. Initiates relationships and promotes the programs of CJE. Refers interested congregations to program staff members.
Newsletter Editor—uses writing, editing and design skills to produce quarterly newsletter for Adult Day Services. Coordinates the assignment of writing, design and photography projects. Assembles, prints and distributes the publication.
Food Services Marketing Representative—uses sales, communications and promotion skills to recruit clients for Home-Delivered Meals and Kosher to Go programs.
Volunteer Recruitment Representative—uses outreach, marketing and communications skills to engage traditional and skill-based volunteers to assist with general programs and operations of CJE.