What Is a Service Enterprise?

A Service Enterprise is an organization that strategically leverages volunteers to achieve operational efficiency and greater social impact. Service Enterprises are among the top 11 percent of nonprofits in the country in volunteer management and organizational performance. Research conducted by TCC Group and Deloitte shows that nonprofits operating as a Service Enterprise are as effective as peers but at almost half the median budget, and they are significantly more adaptable, sustainable and scalable. Become a leader in capacity building and engagement by becoming a certified Service Enterprise or Service Enterprise Hub.

Become a Service Enterprise Today

About the Program


Service Enterprise Benefits & Resources

Organizations certified as Service Enterprises have access to:

A Comprehensive Diagnostic

Organizations have access to the Service Enterprise Diagnostic, a thorough, research-based assessment of their existing volunteer engagement practices that informs their training and provides tailored recommendations for improvement.

Volunteer Engagement Training

Organizations receive up to 16 hours of training focused on change management and volunteer engagement to help them transform and reimagine how they currently engage volunteers.


Organizations receive up to 10 hours of coaching to help them translate knowledge from the training into action for their organization.


Organizations receive a designation signifying a commitment to leveraging the time and talent of volunteers to meet the organization’s social mission.

A Network of Peers

Organizations that join the Service Enterprise program will be able to network with each other, share best practices and provide peer-to-peer support.

Research and Resources

Organizations gain access to proprietary content and research, including a robust resource library with trends and reports about how best to engage and manage volunteers.

History & Methods

The Service Enterprise program started in 2010 with a simple question: how can we better engage volunteers? It has since become one of the nation's most impactful nonprofit certification programs.


The Service Enterprise program began in 2010 when Reimagining Service partners CommonGood Careers, Deloitte, Taproot Foundation, The RGK Center for Philanthropy at the University of Texas and TCC Group collaborated around research and best practices for volunteer engagement. Based on this research, CaliforniaVolunteers leveraged a grant they received from the Corporation for National and Community Service to start a pilot project aimed at strengthening the capacity of volunteer organizations.

In 2012, Points of Light joined the partnership, collaborating with the RGK Center and TCC Group to integrate a diagnostic component that informs the process for organizations taking part in the program. Points of Light then developed the curriculum, marketing materials and content necessary to scale the program to organizations within our affiliate Network and other partners in the sector.

Since then, the program has scaled across the country through a network of Service Enterprise Hubs operating in more than 20 states, having certified over 500 organizations as Service Enterprises. We thank all involved for their leadership, early investment, research and assessment tools that built the foundation.

A Research-based Approach to Building Service Enterprises

Based on rigorous research, Points of Light’s Service Enterprise program utilizes a proven process that starts with a diagnostic which informs the training and coaching organizations experience before they are certified. As organizations apply new learnings, they continuously assess their progress and retrain as needed. Typically, the process from start to certification takes six months to a year

The program is currently delivered through a national network of Service Enterprise Hubs, which have partnered with Points of Light to certify more than 500 organizations nationwide since 2012.

The Research Process Behind Service Enterprise

The Service Enterprise curriculum is based on an analysis of data from more than 600 organizations that took the TCC Group’s Core Capacity Assessment Tool. Data showed that 11% of these organizations were top performers in volunteer management, and we called this elite group “Service Enterprises.” Other key findings among Service Enterprises:

  • Organizational capacities are markedly stronger for nonprofits with a strong volunteer management model.
  • Organizations that are well led also engage and manage volunteers well.
  • Organizations are significantly more adaptable, sustainable and capable of going to scale.
  • Organizations are committed to maintaining strong and well-developed human resources management practices.
  • Organizations that engage volunteers are just as effective as their peers that do not leverage volunteers, but accomplish their work at almost half the median budget.

The 10 Core CHARACTERISTICS of a Service Enterprise

Based on additional, thorough analysis of the data, Deloitte, Points of Light, Algorhythm and the RGK Center for Philanthropy at the University of Texas at Austin identified ten core characteristics that are now the basis for the determination of a Service Enterprise:

1. Planning & Development: Develop a strategy and infrastructure for mission driven volunteer engagement.

2. Leadership Support:Demonstrate executive commitment to volunteer engagement.

3. Resource Allocation: Allocate sufficient resources to volunteer engagement.

4. Tracking & Evaluation: Determine service values, track volunteer retention, assess the quality of volunteer experiences, and monitor the outputs and outcomes of volunteers in meeting the mission of the organization through a volunteer tracking system.

5. Outreach: Conduct outreach and volunteer recruitment to sustain ongoing volunteer engagement.

6. Funding: Secure ongoing funding to support volunteer engagement.

Click to expand

7. Effective Training: Train volunteers and the employees that manage them, to effectively fill their positions.

8. Onboarding & Supervision: Match volunteers to appropriate positions, clarify roles, orienting and supporting them throughout their time with the organization.

9. Technology & Communication: Implement supportive technology, invite dialogue with volunteers, and articulate volunteer contributions with the community.

10. Partnering to Extend Reach: Cultivate a participatory and mutually beneficial relationship with the community.

See the Results of Becoming a Service Enterprise

“Going through Service Enterprise has really opened our eyes as to how volunteerism should look for our organization. The
process has helped us put a much bigger focus on our volunteer program and our volunteer efforts, in turn making it a central part of our daily discussions. Our chapter’s ROVI has increased 67% since we started tracking this number, which shows to our staff, donors and board that the investment we are making in volunteerism is making a huge impact. We now ask the question, “what can’t a volunteer do?” often, and incorporate volunteers in almost all aspects of our business.”

—Josh Nuss, Executive Director, The ALS Association Iowa Chapter (read their case study)

Watch a Case Study Video From Volunteer Iowa >

“One of the core values of Maggie’s Place is community. Service Enterprise has helped us to build the structure we needed to fully support and sustain the volunteers in our community. Here at Maggie’s Place, our staff truly feel that volunteers are the heart of the home. We know it is up to us to provide a healthy, safe, and meaningful experience for all volunteers.”

-Alysse Lerager, Maggie’s Place (read their case study)

“Service Enterprise forced us to become proactive in our volunteer engagement efforts rather than reactive. In less than 6 months, our Return on Volunteer Investment increased from $3.42 – $5.38.”

— Jessica Elbe, Northwest Compass, Inc.

See the Results of Becoming a Service Enterprise

Interested in learning more about the research on volunteerism and Points of Light’s Service Enterprise program? Check out these resources:

  • A quick and easy summary of the Reimagining Service Principles and nonprofit service enterprise findings.
  • Research conducted by the TCC Group that highlights the impact of volunteer engagement on a nonprofit organization’s overall effectiveness.
  • Research conducted by Deloitte that identifies the original eight characteristics that served as critical practices for nonprofit service enterprises.
  • Nonprofit Quarterly takes a look at the process of building capacity and why models like Service Enterprise work.
  • Watch our 2020 Points of Light Conference session to learn more about Service Enterprise and successful volunteer engagement strategies.
  • The Funder’s Guide to Investing in Volunteer Engagement explores why investing in volunteer engagement, like Service Enterprise, is a cost-effective strategy to better equip organizations to meet their missions.

In Volunteers Annually


Value of Increased Labor Hours


Value of Increased Labor Hours


An Increase in Skilled Volunteers

Request More Information

Interested in the Service Enterprise program and want more information? Send us your inquiry, and our team will get in touch with you!