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Skills based volunteering: The top benefits of matching volunteers with their skills

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In this article we cover the most important information on skills-based volunteering, including:

  • What is skills-based volunteering
  • Benefits of skills based volunteering 
  • What is a skills based volunteer 


There's a real talent to putting together a dynamic team of volunteers that extends beyond an enthusiastic and engaged group that's excited to get their collective hands dirty and help further your mission in the community. Volunteer leaders are so focused on the daily operations of their mission there may not always be time to consider whether they are deploying each volunteer to their highest and best use for the organization. 

What is skills-based volunteering?

This approach to volunteer management is focused on using the unique skills and experiences of individuals. The most well-known example of this type of volunteering is Doctors Without Borders—an international group of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who donate their time and talents to underserved areas worldwide, regardless of geopolitical concerns. College graduates with sustainability and environmental engineering degrees are volunteering for the Peace Corps, while newly-minted teachers are filling up the Teach for America program.

On a more local level, a graphic designer brings a particular talent to your organization that's expensive to contract outside. Musicians and artists on your team can organize concerts and art shows as fundraisers or mentor children in the community who are interested in the arts. 

A good definition of SBV is this: you're placing volunteers in an authoritative or educational position. They can then communicate some of those skills to your team and community. For instance, just like in the VITA tax program, every winter sees a wave of active and retired CPAs stepping up to lend their professional skills, helping countless people navigate the complexities of their income tax forms. In other cases, retired teachers tutor adults in the computer skills they need to find a better job. 

These are some other examples of skills-based volunteering.

  • A horticulturist advises and assists in planting and maintaining a community garden
  • A professional writer teaches volunteers how to write grants
  • A doctor sets up EMT training certification for your team
  • A coach gets a sporting goods store to provide equipment for a summer camp

Such diversity in skills-based volunteering demonstrates its adaptability to different organizational needs. Whether for volunteer managers, corporations, or nonprofits, SBV offers a way to align skilled volunteers with opportunities that maximize their impact and benefit both the volunteers and the organizations they serve. SBV taps into a vast pool of talents, ensuring that almost anyone can contribute meaningfully to their community or a cause they are passionate about.

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Skill based volunteering

Skill based volunteering (SBV) represents a shift from traditional volunteerism, focusing on strategically using a volunteer's specific skills and expertise. This approach can support specific organization initiatives, engaging individuals in roles that fully leverage their professional and personal strengths.

There's a unique harmony when a volunteer's talents meet the needs of an organization. It's about creating roles that fill a gap and allow volunteers to use their specialized skills. This method is a win-win: volunteers engage in work they are passionate about, and organizations benefit from professional expertise.

A prime example of this model in action is Charles Schwab's Pro Bono Challenge. This initiative showcases how skills based volunteering can have a significant impact, connecting employees with nonprofits to solve strategic issues effectively. It demonstrates the power of aligning a volunteer's talents with an organization's requirements, leading to impactful and fulfilling experiences for both parties.

What is a skills-based volunteer?

A skills-based volunteer, also commonly referred to as a "Pro Bono Volunteer," is someone who leverages their professional or personal talents in volunteer roles. This concept, central to skill based volunteering, involves volunteers using their unique, special skills for volunteering, offering project or initiative specific support. They bring expertise and experience typically found in professional settings to the nonprofit sector.

In skilled volunteering, individuals engage in tasks that align closely with their professional background or interests. This could range from a marketing expert developing a communications strategy for a nonprofit to a seasoned educator providing training workshops. The key is the application of specialized skills in a volunteer setting, which benefits the organization and offers the volunteers an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Moreover, skill-based volunteering expands professional networks and boosts social skills. It's a two-way street of benefits: organizations gain high-level expertise, and volunteers enhance their skill sets. 76% of volunteers in skill-based roles report developing core work skills through their experiences. This type of volunteering addresses immediate organizational needs and fosters a culture of continuous learning and development, benefiting both the individual volunteer and the organization. 

Recruitment Strategies for Skills-Based Volunteering

Skill based volunteering (SBV) solves common recruitment challenges in volunteer programs. By focusing on special skills for volunteering, organizations can attract individuals seeking to apply their professional expertise. This approach enhances the appeal of volunteering opportunities and addresses the constraints of limited marketing expertise and budget. 

Skilled volunteering taps into a pool of volunteers who can contribute to communications and marketing, effectively expanding an organization's outreach capabilities without additional financial investment. By leveraging the specific talents of volunteers, SBV creates a more efficient and impactful recruitment strategy, turning potential challenges into opportunities for growth and community engagement.

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The building blocks for an SBV corps start with the right software to track and match your volunteers and projects. A comprehensive suite of software tools helps you keep your team engaged with interesting projects, which also contributes to deeper ties to your organization and positively impacts that all-important retention ratio.

SBV also offers remote opportunities, expanding the range of projects available and catering to those with unconventional working hours or remote living situations. This flexibility allows a diverse group of individuals to contribute effectively. By focusing on specific skills, SBV ensures volunteers are not just participants but crucial contributors, using their unique abilities to impact various sectors significantly. 

Skills Assessment and Matching Techniques

A critical component of skills-based volunteerism is the effective assessment and matching of special skills for volunteering. This process involves identifying the specific talents and expertise of volunteers and aligning them with the needs of organizations. The goal is to create a perfect fit where volunteers can apply their skills meaningfully, and organizations benefit from targeted expertise.

One of the key advantages of this approach is that it integrates with company talent development programs. Companies can enhance specific skills by engaging employees in skills based volunteering from six weeks to six months. This contributes to the volunteers' personal and professional growth and adds value to the organization through the development of a skilled workforce.

Effective skills assessment and matching require a deep understanding of the volunteer's capabilities and the organization's needs. Techniques can range from detailed skills inventories to matching algorithms, all aimed at ensuring that the right volunteer is placed in the right role. This strategic approach to volunteerism maximizes the impact of each volunteer's contribution, making skills-based volunteering a powerful tool for community development and organizational growth.


In volunteering, the range of projects caters to various special skills for volunteering. Some projects need people who are handy (and safe) around power tools, while others need a team that's patient with kids with a diversity of learning styles. Projects can be as brief as 30-minute tasks or as extensive as several months of mentoring. This flexibility allows volunteers to select opportunities that fit their schedules and interests best, ensuring their time and skills are effectively matched with the right projects. 

Proper volunteer onboarding is essential, preparing volunteers for their roles and ensuring their skills are appropriately matched to the projects. This diversity in project duration and type is crucial for accommodating a wide spectrum of skills and preferences, making skills-based volunteering a flexible and impactful approach.


When you have experts involved in your projects, the chances of success increase dramatically. A significant 85% of nonprofits report that skills-based volunteers have helped them increase their capacity and effectiveness. This boost in capacity is not just in terms of manpower but also in the quality of work and innovation brought in by skilled volunteers. 

With their specialized knowledge and experience, these volunteers contribute to solving complex problems, optimizing processes, and implementing new strategies. This enhanced capacity and effectiveness enable nonprofits to achieve their goals more efficiently and make a greater impact in their communities. Infusing specific and necessary skills into the nonprofit sector through skills-based volunteering is key to organizational growth and success.

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Building Corporate and Community Partnerships

Skills-based volunteering (SBV) is a powerful tool for building strong partnerships between corporations and communities. More than 50% of companies currently engage in SBV, with its popularity exceptionally high among millennials. This approach allows businesses to engage their employees' professional skills to support community projects and nonprofit organizations. 

SBV fosters a sense of social responsibility within the corporate sector and strengthens community ties. By aligning corporate resources and expertise with community needs, SBV creates mutually beneficial relationships. These partnerships result in a meaningful impact on local projects while enhancing employee satisfaction and corporate reputation. The growing trend of SBV reflects a shift towards more strategic and impactful corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Skills based volunteering - half of companies engage in skills-based volunteering (4)

Tips from an organization based on SBV

Americorps, a federally supported network of national service programs, exemplifies the power of SBV. This organization actively recruits individuals from diverse backgrounds, matching their skills with various community needs. Participants, often with professional expertise in areas like education, public health, or disaster response, serve in projects across the nation.

Americorps provides a structured platform where volunteers apply their specialized skills in real-world scenarios, offering immense value to underserved communities. These projects range from teaching in traditionally under-resourced schools, aiding in disaster relief efforts, to working on environmental conservation projects. The organization's approach ensures that volunteers are placed in roles where their skills are not just utilized but further developed.

The success of Americorps in engaging skilled volunteers has profound effects. It demonstrates how strategic volunteer placement can lead to significant community development and personal growth for volunteers. For example, an experienced educator in Americorps might lead educational initiatives in systemically under-resourced areas, while a healthcare professional could contribute to public health campaigns.

This model of using SBV not only addresses immediate community needs but also contributes to the long-term professional development of volunteers. It's a testament to how structured skills-based volunteering can create a symbiotic relationship between the volunteer's growth and community improvement. Americorps stands as a beacon for organizations looking to implement effective SBV strategies.

Benefits of skills-based volunteering 

Adopting the SBV approach is like extending your team's capabilities without the additional costs. This method is not about replacing your dedicated employees but rather augmenting your team's reach with skilled volunteers. 

For instance, imagine needing a new logo. Instead of hiring an external graphic designer, a skilled volunteer within your organization can take on this task. This approach utilizes the diverse talents of volunteers, adding value to your team’s efforts while saving on expenses typically allocated for professional services. It's about smartly leveraging available resources to enhance your team's effectiveness and impact.

Beyond just financial benefits, adopting SBV enhances project efficiency and success. Volunteers bring specialized expertise that leads to innovative solutions and high-quality work, particularly in areas requiring specific knowledge like technology and marketing. This not only enables more effective allocation of resources but also improves project outcomes and elevates the organization's reputation. In turn, this attracts further support and resources, fostering a culture of professionalism and continuous improvement within the organization.

Benefits for the volunteers

One of the great unintended consequences of volunteering, especially in the context of skills based volunteering, is the opportunity to network and enhance personal and professional growth. Volunteers engaged in an SBV approach not only gain skills and experience in their field when working with your group; they're also building connections for their future. This is particularly valuable for college students or recent graduates who are looking to build their professional networks through community service. 

In SBV, individuals apply their unique talents and expertise, leading to a more fulfilling experience. Here are key advantages for volunteers:

  • Enhanced Skill Development and Career Advancement: Volunteers gain practical experience and develop new skills, which can be instrumental in career growth. This hands-on approach allows for applying existing skills in new, challenging environments, fostering professional development. 
  • Networking Opportunities: Engaging in skills-based volunteering opens doors to new professional connections. Volunteers often work alongside industry professionals, offering a platform to build relationships and expand their professional network.
  • Positive Mental Health Outcomes: Volunteering leads to improved mental health, with a “warm glow” effect, especially beneficial for ages 16-25 and 55-74. This emotional uplift is attributed to the sense of accomplishment and community connection experienced through meaningful volunteer work.

These benefits highlight how skills-based volunteering creates a win-win scenario, enriching the lives of volunteers while contributing significantly to the organizations they support. 

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Enhancing Volunteer Onboarding and Retention

Skills based Volunteering (SBV) significantly improves volunteer retention and onboarding. By aligning volunteers' skills with specific needs, SBV fosters a sense of purpose and belonging, crucial for long-term engagement. 

For instance, Fidelity's Workplace Investing Group leverages SBV for nonprofit strategic challenges, enhancing employee skills and leadership and ensuring volunteers feel valued and effective. This approach has increased volunteer retention rates, as volunteers are more likely to continue their involvement when their skills are used and appreciated. 

Additionally, SBV simplifies the onboarding process, as volunteers can quickly integrate into roles that match their expertise, reducing the time and resources needed for training. This efficiency in onboarding and retention translates into a healthier, more sustainable volunteer program. 

Board service

Skills-based volunteering is an organic way to assess your entire volunteer corps for future leadership positions within the organization. This approach focuses on evaluating volunteers' creativity, teamwork, and organizational performance, which are essential for managing people for the future. Volunteers who have had wide-ranging experiences within the team, combined with strong communication, decision-making, and leadership skills, are often targeted for board positions. 

SBV allows volunteers to apply their professional skills or hobbies in a manner that benefits the nonprofit, increasing impact and efficiency. By concentrating on their contemporary performance in these areas, organizations can effectively spot those with the potential for leadership roles. This strategy not only strengthens the organization but also offers volunteers a clear path for growth and meaningful contribution. Through SBV, organizations can ensure a robust and skilled board, preparing them effectively for future leadership while nurturing their volunteers' aspirations and capabilities.

Measuring the Impact of Skills-Based Volunteering

Evaluating the impact of skills-based volunteering (SBV) is key to understanding its effectiveness. Here's how to measure and assess this impact:

  • Skill Match and Application: Track how closely volunteers' skills align with their assigned tasks. This metric helps ensure that volunteers are in roles where they can make the most impact. 
  • Project Outcomes: Look at the completion rates and success of volunteer projects. This shows how their skills contribute to achieving organizational goals.
  • Volunteer Engagement: Measure volunteer satisfaction and retention. Happy volunteers who feel their skills are well-used are more likely to stay engaged. Volunteers who are 10% more grateful have 17.5% more social capital.
  • Recruitment Efficiency: Assess the impact of SBV on attracting new volunteers. Effective use of skills in volunteering can streamline and enhance recruitment efforts.
  • Sustainability of Solutions: Evaluate the longevity of the solutions provided by volunteers. SBV aims to create lasting solutions that maintain effectiveness, a vital aspect of sustainable impact.

By focusing on these areas, organizations can gain a clear picture of the benefits and effectiveness of their SBV initiatives, leading to more strategic and impactful volunteer engagement.

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Embracing the Future of Volunteering

The future of volunteering is here, shaped by skills-based volunteering (SBV). This approach brings a new dimension to how we view and engage with volunteer work. It's about matching the unique abilities of volunteers with the specific needs of nonprofits, creating impactful and fulfilling experiences for both parties. 

For organizations looking to tap into the power of SBV, Get Connected by Galaxy Digital is here to help. Our free volunteer matching tool is designed to make these connections seamless and effective. It's time to transform your volunteer program and make a lasting impact. 

Download our free Volunteer Matching Planning Guide to support your organization in aligning volunteer skills with opportunities.

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