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How Do Volunteer Engagement Professionals Stack Up?

Karmit Bulman
In June, 2017, MAVA began a study designed to examine how CEOs recruit, support, and resource four key positions in nonprofit and public sector organizations, so that organizational leaders and other stakeholders can make informed decisions. The four positions are Volunteer Engagement Professionals (VEPs), Development Directors (DDs), Program Directors (PDs), and Human Resource Professionals (HRPs). 464 CEOs responded to a 22 question survey. Upon analysis of the surveys, MAVA determined that it was necessary to follow up and interview a diverse group of nonprofit CEOs in order to obtain deeper insight regarding the survey findings. MAVA interviewed 24 CEOs from across North America.

There were several key findings from this study. They include the following:
  • VEPs are less likely to serve on an executive leadership team than DDs, PDs and HRPs.
  • Although VEPS are more likely to be included in strategic planning than on the executive leadership team, many organizations include VEPs only through the participation of their supervisors.
  • VEP salaries are lower in most organizations than those of DDs, HRPs and PDs.
  • VEPs are more likely to be eliminated during difficult budget times.
  • CEOs identified issues and challenges that VEPs face in comparison with other professionals. VEPS are most likely to experience: high turnover, unwillingness to make the job full-time, or a combination of two positions. Most CEOs recognized that non-VEP staff don’t understand what the VEP position entails and that VEPs often feel siloed and not valued.
  • CEOs noted the misperception that volunteers are easy to recruit and retain.


During the study period, CEOs noted that there are many action steps they can take to addresses some of these noted inequities. Advice from CEOs to other CEOs included:

  1. Articulate your support regarding the value of volunteers to the organization and show the value of the VEP position.
  2. Show your support through actions.
  3. Structure the VEP position in the organization so that it has a high scope of responsibility, is considered to have strategic responsibilities and is linked both with development and mission accomplishments.
  4. Involve volunteers at higher levels and throughout the organization.
  5. Invest more resources in volunteerism.
  6. Invest in training for the VEP, staff, and volunteers.

In addition, at MAVA’s annual meeting on December 6, 2017, MAVA members began to explore what VEPs can do about these findings. Here are some things VEPs can do:

  • Publicize the findings of this Research Study.
  • Advocate to have the organization certified as a Service Enterprise.
  • Work with the leadership team to reshape the VEP position description so that it has strategic responsibilities and has a broad scope of responsibilities.
  • Advocate to upgrade the VEP position to Manager or Director.
  • Attend MAVA events, trainings, and networking opportunities.
  • Work with MAVA to pass the volunteerism Bill and to hold a lobbying day at the Capitol.

Mava will be sharing the results of the study soon. Consider inviting MAVA to come to your organization or networking group to share results of the survey. Start taking action to address these challenges. MAVA is here to help you. For more information contact Karmit Bulman at kbulman@mavanetwork.org.