5 Ways to Revamp Your Volunteer Program
You have the volunteers you need, and things are going well, but in the back of your mind, you’re fixating on when you won’t have enough volunteers. How long has it been since you’ve reviewed your volunteer recruitment program? Is your program as strong as it needs to be to appropriately recruit, retain, and engage volunteers?
It can be hard to find the time to review your volunteer program. But pivoting to meet the changing needs of your volunteers and the programs and services you support is key to keeping your volunteers around for the long-term and your programs supported appropriately.
Here are five ideas for revamping your volunteer recruitment program:
1. Ask. This can be the simplest change. Often, members want to help but they’re not sure what role is best, so, instead, they do nothing. And, when they don’t express interest, you don’t know they want to get involved. Ask in meetings, on your website, and in your newsletter, but know that these group requests may not be enough to get your volunteer “lurkers” to step up. Your volunteer committee should be regularly connecting one-on-one with current volunteers, new members, and existing members who haven’t yet volunteered. Learn how they feel about volunteering, what they might be interested in, why they haven’t stepped up, and who else could make a great volunteer.
2. Call it “joining a committee.” Volunteers don’t want to feel like they’re alone, so tell your potential volunteers that they’ll be joining a committee– Marketing, Sponsorship, Membership, etc. – instead of just asking them to volunteer. Committees are the “sub-network” of your organization, and, by being in one, your members get the support they need to do their jobs effectively, while connecting more intimately with other members. Be sure the committee has a leader, as volunteers need someone to report to. Working alone means the person has no accountability or connection and their interest could wane quickly.
3. Develop micro-volunteer opportunities. If your goal is one person for each initiative, you could be asking too much of members, as with their competing priorities, many may not be able to commit to projects that take up a lot of their time or require in person participation. You could get more done, faster, by breaking larger tasks into smaller, more digestible pieces that can be accomplished by a team. Micro-volunteering can help your work get done at the quality you need, while eliminating some of the stress that comes with all those open To Dos.
4. Highlight your volunteers & your volunteer needs. Hold volunteer appreciation events and showcase your volunteers in your newsletter, on your website, and at your meetings. Do you have a Volunteer of the Month? Consider implementing one and making your “winners” very visible, to help existing volunteers feel valued and show those who aren’t volunteering how important volunteers are to your chapter. Be sure to highlight the volunteer positions you’re trying to fill. Members won’t know what you need unless you tell them.
5. Create volunteer descriptions. For many, finding the right volunteer opportunity is like finding the right job. The best way to show what the job entails is with a volunteer description. The more details you can provide about the opportunity, the better chance the person who takes the position will be the right fit and they’ll stick around for the long-term.
No May Not Mean No When It Comes to Volunteering
If a person says they’re not interested, it doesn’t necessarily mean they never want to volunteer. It could mean, “not right now” or “that job isn’t the right fit for me.” Keep asking, and there’s a better chance that one day they’ll say yes. Remember that you don’t need to choose the next person that walks through the door. It’s ok to leave a volunteer role open until you find the right person.