Women Connect4Good conducted an online survey of women’s experiences in social-profit (not-for-profit or community) activities in order to assess the demand and determine content for an online resource.
Of the 98 women who responded, nearly all (90%) said they participated actively in social-profit ventures with two-thirds of them filling leadership roles. Nearly 40 percent said they plan on becoming more active in the next 1–3 years and half said they planned to continue the same level of involvement. Nearly half have been active in social-profit groups for 15 or more years. The next largest group (22%) had been active from 1-4 years, the remainder between 5-14 years.
Likely Use of Online Resource
When asked about their likely use of an online resource that addressed the issues in the survey, 85 percent said they would use it frequently or occasionally while more than one third would recommend it to others. More than one fourth said they would use it to share their expertise with others.
Forty respondents offered their email addresses and said they would help develop an online resource to address these issues.
Benefits of Social-Profit Activities
On average, women selected three or four benefits they derived from their social profit work. Networking with other women was most commonly cited (86%), with making new friends and having fun each cited by 81 percent. Nearly two-thirds sought to build up their companies, careers or salaries (62%) and 44 percent cited improved health as a benefit. Several wrote in other benefits, including spiritual health, self-satisfaction, and improving their world with more services, resources or opportunities. One participant emphasized the satisfaction of inspiring others to stay involved more than one time.
Challenges of Social-Profit Activities
The survey asked them to check challenges they had encountered. Eight individuals said they had not experienced any challenges. Of the 90 women who selected one or more specific challenges:
- 47 cited fundraising hurdles
- 35 each cited helping members feel included and organizing volunteers
- 26 had problems with managing committees
- 25 had challenges gaining stature and recognition for group’s efforts
- 23 had issues communicating with members
- 20 wished for more creative ideas for program operation
- 19 each had challenges delegating or managing e-mail and Internet
- 15 cited making decisions as a challenge
- 14 struggled with demonstrating win/win benefits to participants
Twenty-four women (27%) wrote in “other” challenges, which centered in three areas.
Recruiting and Inspiring Volunteers
The challenges mentioned most frequently related to recruiting new volunteers and maintaining the ranks year-to-year. Finding ways to inspire others to “take up the challenge” of leadership and take initiative and responsibility for getting the work done formed the core of most of the difficulties. One participant wished for more active, committed volunteers who were not resume builders and social status seekers.
Another stated that many career women did not realize how uplifting non-career-specific activities can be, nor the benefits women under 35 derive from working with more experienced women. Further, many do not understand how important it is to support and advocate for other women through volunteering and friendships.
Others cited the challenges in mentoring others to organize new or restructured events, as well as the challenge of increasing awareness of an organization. One woman lamented a flip-side problem: establishing credibility to gain acceptance as a person new to the area.
Working with Boards
Board relationships challenged many who struggled to gain board support or to understand what leadership expects of committees.
Some boards seem to actively hinder efforts, notably by keeping the choice assignments for themselves and thereby discouraging new volunteers.
One respondent noted the difficulty of collaborating with other social-profit groups and keeping them focused on the mission without competitive jealousy and territorial issues. Another mentioned the difficulty of working with strong-willed individuals who have a hard time letting go of their ideas and compromising.