The New Volunteer Manifesto Series – Part 2: Finding Volunteers

As part of my New Insights from a New CAE weekly column on SmartBlog Insights, I’m delving deeper into my New Volunteer Manifesto that I published here. In Part 2 published last Thursday, I looked at Finding Volunteers.


The New Volunteer Manifesto: Finding Volunteers

Deirdre Reid, CAE is an association consultant, speaker and trainer focusing on member engagement and social media at Deirdre Reid LLC and Leadership Outfitters. Connect with her @DeirdreReid.

I recently published a call to action for associations, a New Volunteer Manifesto. Last week I explored the big picture. Now I’d like to propose some ideas for volunteer recruitment.

Survey all your members at least once a year to find out their professional development needs, leadership experience, interests, talents and number of hours they can volunteer per month (or quarter) so you can match them to the best volunteer opportunities for them. Keep this inventory readily available. Plan on getting updates because members’ needs and interests will change. Ideally, volunteers will call or visit members to get this information (a retention “touch”), but at least include the survey in welcome letters, renewal invoices and mailings. Follow up by phone with non-responders.

Committee involvement may be too demanding for personal schedules. Encourage ad hoc or episodic volunteering — an hour or so here and there. You need a variety of options that are still meaningful and do not require long-term commitments. Spend some time creating a list of these opportunities.

Publicize all volunteer opportunities on your website, particularly those requiring a minimal time commitment. Communicate in new ways: feature a few at meetings in an automated PowerPoint presentation; post on event table tents; announce ad-hoc opportunities via opt-in mobile texting; feature a few in each e-newsletter and on your home page, Facebook page, LinkedIn group or Twitter stream.

Keep in touch with volunteers who may step out of their roles temporarily due to other commitments. Let them know they are missed and will be welcomed back in any capacity.

Your leaders and staff must be able to answer the question, “what’s in it for me?” Don’t so much sell volunteering, as listen to what members need (that’s where the inventory comes in handy) and provide them solutions (volunteer opportunities) to help them grow, learn, meet others, etc.

Consider this:

“The primary difference between volunteers and non-volunteers, when measuring what they do with their time, is the amount of television they watch. People who do not volunteer watch hundreds of hours of additional TV a year compared to people who do volunteer. It’s not that people don’t have enough time to volunteer. People do not volunteer because nonprofits do not provide them with volunteer opportunities that interest them enough to pull them away from their television sets.” (Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2009, The New Volunteer Workforce)

Are your volunteer opportunities meaningful and valuable enough to pull your members away from Jack Bauer?

Make it easy for those who are looking into involvement. Publicize committee meeting times, locations and agendas on your website. Publicly encourage members to attend a meeting if they’re interested. Take the mystery out of it.

The personal ask is the most effective way to recruit a volunteer, not a passive call for volunteers. When a member is asked to help, be ready with a few options, so they can choose the one that’s best for them.

Cultivate evangelical leaders and volunteers, those with social capital, who will personally ask others to get involved, and who can testify about the benefits of their volunteer service.

What do you think about these ideas? Have you tried any of them?


Yesterday my post on Keeping Volunteers was published. Check out SmartBlog Insights!

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Author: deirdrereid

Deirdre is a freelance writer for companies serving the association market, who after more than 20 years in the association and restaurant industries, is enjoying the good life as a ghostblogger and content marketing writer. Away from her laptop, you can find her walking in the woods, doing yoga, going to shows, journaling, cooking, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and a glass of something tasty in hand.

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