Volunteer labor is at the heart of what makes nonprofits run. Managing those volunteers is one of a nonprofit's most significant tasks. Data reported by arts nonprofits in LA County to the Cultural Data Project (CDP) suggests this is as true in the arts as in other nonprofit sectors. Among arts nonprofits, volunteers take on responsibilities as artists, fundraisers, program staff or they may provide other general support. This study begins by defining the term "volunteer," investigating the complexity of volunteers' varied motivations, exploring different ways to understand the value of volunteering, and examining the special role of artist volunteers in arts nonprofits. It concludes with a series of recommendations that may help arts nonprofits improve their volunteer management and think of their volunteers in a whole new light. The data presented here -- as well as our preceding salaries and benefits studies -- should be seen not as a definitive answer to questions about labor and compensation in local arts nonprofits, but as a starting point for conversations about the status of the nonprofit arts ecology in LA County.
The mission of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture is to advance arts, culture, and creativity throughout LA County. We fulfill our mission by providing services and support in areas including grants and technical assistance for nonprofit organizations; professional development opportunities; commissioning civic artworks and managing the County’s civic art collection; implementing countywide arts education initiatives; research and evaluation; career pathways in the creative economy; free community programs; and cross sector creative strategies that address civic issues. This work is framed by the County’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative and a longstanding commitment to fostering access to the arts.