In the most recent episode of the sgENGAGE podcast, Rachel Hutchisson interviewed Natalye Paquin, CEO of Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Rachel and Natalye’s discussion focuses on the most valuable asset any organization can have – not money, time or energy, but people. They discuss how important people are to every cause, and how technology can and is helping manage and facilitate this precious resource, and enabling and encouraging people to engage civically and do more good.
Read below for a condensed excerpt from the interview, including why Natalye believes volunteers are such a critical resource, and how they can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals:
Rachel: You joined [Points of Light] a little over a year ago, and you went on a tour of talking to and listening to a lot of people, and then you came out with a new strategic plan. So what are the top line items that are in that? What’s your focus?
Natalye: First of all, we’re really focused on better leveraging the power of people – being a network of networks where we work with corporations, individuals and nonprofits. They’re all focusing on solving some of the world’s greatest problems. And for us we’d like to one strengthen the network. Two, you know us as a big convener, and so we’re focusing on innovation and thought leadership through convening. And then a new area of focus for us is data to insights to action. And so we’re really focusing in on collecting more data from our network, driving more insights and driving more action.
Rachel: When you were on the main stage this morning, just a few minutes ago, you were talking about how volunteers are an organization’s most valuable asset. So talk a little bit about that, but then more than that, how do nonprofits actually leverage that asset more? What are they not doing or what should they be doing to actually take advantage of that?
Natalye: Sure. Well, I mean, we’re pretty provocative in saying in the nonprofit space and ecosystem, we believe that volunteers are your most valuable asset because they give you their time, their treasures, their talents. And when you think about time, all of us only get 24 hours, so I said this morning, and Bill Gates gets no more time than you or I.
Rachel: Is that true? He gets double.
Natalye: He doesn’t. He doesn’t. There’s only 24 hours in a day. And what we know is that over 30 percent of the workforce in the nonprofit sector is really contributions by volunteers. 58 percent of the output is by volunteers. Volunteers understand your mission personally, so they can be champions as well as donors. And so, we think that they’re very important.
Rachel: So you and I both share a passion for the Sustainable Development Goals. And a couple of weeks ago I was in New York for UN Week and there’s so many different ways you can look at achieving the SDGs, whether it’s from a corporate perspective, a nonprofit perspective, an individual perspective…but what about volunteers? How can volunteers and volunteerism help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?
Natalye: Right. Well, the UN actually issued a report in July and in that report they said that we are not achieving our goals fast enough. And in order to achieve those goals, we really needed to accelerate getting more people involved. And the people that will get involved are volunteers. We know, based on our work, that the number one reason why people volunteer is because they’re asked. The number two reason why they come back is because they understand that they made an impact, and then if you can give them a good experience, you’re likely to have them for a lifetime. So we’re working with Blackbaud in really figuring that out and getting more information so that we can put more volunteers to work to help accelerate change and solve some of the world’s greatest needs.
Rachel: So before we get into what we’re doing together, because I’d like to talk about that more, can you just talk a little bit about the role of technology overall and insights from data to actually help in a volunteerism effort?
Natalye: Sure. Technology is everything. We live a digital life. And so a civic life and civic engagement must be digital too. I mean, it’s everything. And we understand that and we know that you have to have partners. You really have to be equipped. You need technology to do your business. It’s expected in the world.
To learn more from Natalye on the value of people, listen to the entire interview here: Episode 77: Leveraging the Power of People