Time, Talent and Treasure: The First Word is Time for a Reason

Katie Lord

Katie Lord, Senior Consultant

As far as nonprofit jargon is concerned, we have all probably used, or at least heard, the phrase “Time, Talent and Treasure” when referring to how we can engage individuals with our organizations.  While it may seem to be a fairly basic concept, defining the above trifecta is becoming an increasingly complex matter, as definitions have evolved among different generations. In this three-part series, we will examine the components of this paradigm individually, and emphasize how your organization can effectively create programs right now that can be easily implemented to grow your base of supporters today, tomorrow and in the futureBe sure to read Part II (talent) and Part III  (treasure) of Katie’s series.

Most commonly, when speaking of “time” as it relates to nonprofit organizations, the standard definition would be time given related to its direct service activities/programs.  Examples would be serving meals to the homeless, attending a Board or committee meeting, making an in-person gift solicitation or attending a special event.  “Time,” however, can now be calculated through “off-site” activities including networking and personal introductions, technologically-based gift solicitations through social media, email or text or completing a “done-in-a-day” project (such as packet assembly for a walk/race) that can be done at home.

According to the Independent Sector (independentsector.org,) the 2015 calculated hour of volunteer work is the equivalent of $23.56 in a paid wages, thus putting a monetary value on volunteer work and something to keep in mind when recruiting top volunteer talent of any generation.  This value of “time,” however, no longer just equates to “time” given on-site with the organization through a traditional lens. It needs to evolve into a new definition by nonprofits.  It is through the giving of “time” that your organization has the opportunity to tell your story and impart your mission to your volunteers. This, in turn, will expand their knowledge of your organization and their personal commitment to your mission.

As the majority of the population continues to age and retire from traditional jobs, the Baby Boomer generation should be the major focus of volunteer coordinators for on-site and “traditional” in-person support through Board service or capital campaign committees. This is due to their established networks, higher disposable income and focus on leaving their mark on the world.  Baby Boomers are not a passive retirement generation. They are staying involved and active much longer than the generation before them. Many are not completely exiting the work force, but are just reducing hours or taking “retirement” in the form of a nontraditional job.  Having just passed their highest earning years by retiring or semi-retiring, they look to continue to be relevant and to not only use their skill sets, but to also share their invaluable knowledge and experience.

It is important to remember though that many Baby Boomers will be discerning regarding the institutions with which they choose to share their skills, they may also be reducing the number of Boards and activities to which they are willing to commit. Boomers do tend to have a level of longevity with the organizations they support, having given their “treasure” first and then following with their “time” and “talent.”

As it relates to Millennials, “time” is perceived as a commodity due to its finite number; everyone only gets 24 hours in a day.  Most millennials are still in their career-building phase, making less in their day job than the $23.56 an hour a volunteer hour is worth.  Millennials tend to give of their “time” first — to see the impact of their efforts on an organization. They make an evaluation, and then follow with their “talent” and “treasure.”

By choosing to give their time to your organization, Millennials are choosing to not participate in another available activity; therefore, it is of the utmost importance that their volunteer projects produce an immediate and demonstrated impact to those you serve. The emerging generations will not be able to provide you the biggest monetary gifts right now. However, and because of their social nature and focus on networks and communities, their “time” can be focused on income-producing opportunities.  Peer-to-Peer fundraising efforts are a great way to use their network and social connections, along with their “time,” to make introductions or solicitations, both in-kind and monetary.  As they will with their careers, many Millennials will give “time” to certain projects, outcomes or people they know, as opposed to institutions and what they stand for, therefore causing more episodic volunteerism.

Both generations — Baby Boomers and Millennials — may have different focuses and motivations related to giving “time,” but are not so different that they both view it as a gift to organizations. So, make sure your organization is cognizant of differing gifts of “time,” and offers multiple ways for “time” to be given. Make sure you value volunteer “time” within the scope of your mission for both Baby Boomers and Millennials. “Time” is not always a standalone commitment, but is often combined at some point with either “treasure” or “talent.”  “Time” is the gateway for volunteers to become further involved with your organization and for moving them along the path to being fully-engaged donors.

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