The New Volunteer Manifesto Series – Part 3: Keeping 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 3 published last Thursday, I looked at Keeping Volunteers.


The New Volunteer Manifesto: Keeping 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 recruiting volunteers. Now I’d like to propose some ideas for keeping volunteers.

Always remember that volunteering is a benefit of membership. Talk to any involved member and you’ll soon see how true this is. Make it easy for your members to find ways to get involved. Break down any perceived barriers, particularly the lack of information about volunteer and leadership opportunities and committee meetings.

Make the connection publicly (and frequently) between what volunteers do and the success of your association. Volunteers want to help your association achieve its goals and know that their efforts make a difference.

Make it part of your culture that projects and committee work are broken down into smaller tasks that volunteers can take on. Tell your chairs to look outside your committee members for help. Share the benefit of volunteering.

Chairs must learn to share the benefits of leadership — delegate delegate delegate. Train others to do your job. Make sure everyone can benefit from volunteering.

Make meetings matter. Use a consent agenda. Start and end on time. Don’t ever meet because you are supposed to; meet because you have lots to accomplish face-to-face that can’t be accomplished effectively in any other way.

Build in time during meetings for strategic thinking and discussion. Take advantage of their brains – see what they come up with. Encourage their investment in the association’s mission.

Aim to be the highlight of someone’s day — make meetings enjoyable. Give members the opportunity to not only get work done, but to do it in a way that makes them want to come back for the next meeting. Consider building some “getting to know you” time into meeting agendas. Members get involved to develop relationships, make that easier for them.

Encourage committees to explore new ways of meeting and working. Switch up a meeting location from the association conference room to perhaps a café. Brainstorm other location ideas. Consider short conference calls or, for a more personal touch, online video chat (check out if scheduling or travel is difficult.

Teach members to use online collaboration tools like wikis or LinkedIn’s Huddle application to get input on projects and task assignments. Tools like these work well for sharing the status of projects, posting to-do lists and assignments, and allowing volunteers to edit and contribute their input.

Personally thank every volunteer who helps in even the tiniest way. They are not paid to do this; they pay to do this. Recognize their contribution and constantly be grateful.

Be a transformational organization. Everyone wants the opportunity to give, learn and grow – to transform into a better version of themselves. Volunteering at your association can be a way to do that, and for many of them, it may be their only way. Remember how important it is to provide those opportunities — the benefits of volunteering.

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


Today my fourth post in the series, Creating a Learning Culture, was published on 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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