A First Foundation Blog

Achieving Volunteering “Mastery”

What does volunteering “mastery” look like?

According to Daniel Pink’s book Drive, the new approach to motivation has three essential elements: (1) Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

“The science shows that the secret to high performance isn’t our biological drive or our reward-and-punishment drive, but our third drive—our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to live a life of purpose.”

Pink’s book is good news for the nonprofit community IF we can spread the word, so I will do my part. Last year, I wrote about philanthropic giving and the potential health benefits that come from giving. And this research proves there is a big personal payoff if we volunteer – so if that is true, what does volunteering “mastery” look like?

We believe mastery begins with understanding the structure of a nonprofit. A nonprofit must operate similarly to a for-profit company, but all profits stay within a nonprofit and ultimately must be transparent to the public. Your skills and talents can be put to work in some big ways, because we need all of the skills necessary to launch, maintain, and sustain a successful company.

Volunteering as a board member means that you are signing up for three jobs. (1) Governing; (2) Advocating; and (3) Sustaining. On most nonprofit boards, you have oversight and a fiduciary responsibility. “Governing” includes overseeing the hiring of an executive director to run day-to-day operations. “Advocating” does mean fundraising! Board members are the tentacles into the community, and we need great storytellers. Finally, “Sustaining” is the focus on the future – who will fill your board seat when you are gone? A focus on building reserves and endowments.

Strong boards reflect diversity and utilize board members’ expertise in marketing, finance, event planning, human resources, and legal & governance. Your “no-big-deal” skill – your talent/expertise that comes so naturally to you it is literally no big deal – is critical to a nonprofit board. Because nonprofit boards attract top talent, you will be at a table with impressive community members who care about something bigger than themselves.

Volunteering as a committee member allows you to pick a sandbox to play in that you enjoy. Do you like planning events? Are you creative? Are you a pro at reading financials? Is your skill connecting people to your cause and being an ambassador? Committees are where you build relationships and truly see your time and talent making a difference.

Investing your thing? There are some fun options here. Many nonprofits are building earned revenue streams of income to support operations. If you have launched a business and understand the highs and lows of the journey, by all means share your experience to help nonprofits build their base of income. You may be philanthropic but still worry about the future. In that case, consider providing low-interest loans or loan guarantees that will help nonprofits expand their footprint.

Volunteering as an individual or family is a great way to get to know a nonprofit, its leadership, and its impact. Your participation is a big help to the organization, because without volunteers most of these events could not happen.

Finally, back to Daniel Pink’s research. Mastery happens when time is invested. This work matters as we direct our own lives and you can find your purpose. If you are yearning to serve something larger than yourself, we are happy to help you find an organization that is making an impact in your area of passion. Meet our Community Impact team and please reach out with any questions about how you can get involved.


Philanthropy Services provided by First Foundation Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.

Marty Dutch, Vice President, Philanthropy Services
About the Author
Marty Dutch, Vice President, Philanthropy Services
Ms. Dutch serves as vice president for First Foundation’s consulting group. In this role, she manages our Supporting Our Communities initiative – a program that helps nonprofits strengthen their organizational and fundraising capacities through cash grants and in-kind consulting services. Prior to joining First Foundation, Ms. Dutch served as Regional Director with The Heritage Institute. In this role, she guided ultra-high-net-worth families through the multigenerational planning process – seeking to provide family unity, growth and development across generations. Before following her passion for philanthropy into the consulting field, Ms. Dutch spent more than 25 years in marketing and sales for Johnson & Johnson and various promotion agencies in Southern California. Ms. Dutch is an active member of Orange County’s philanthropic community. She is a founding board member of Orangewood PALS, an auxiliary of Orangewood Children’s Foundation and serves on the Safe Family Board for Olive Crest. Ms. Dutch is also a member of the Monkey Business Café Advisory Board; Endowment Committee for the Anaheim YMCA; AIP Orange County Board Member and serves on the National Board of Advisors in Philanthropy. Ms. Dutch received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Speech Communication from San Diego State University. Read more