When You Volunforce Members, Bad Things Happen

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020  |  Categories: Volunteers, Volunteer Recruitment  

When You Volunforce Members, Bad Things Happen

Volunteers drive your organization. Without them, you couldn’t keep your chapter operating at the level that keeps those member-volunteers coming back, get guests to join, and complete all your great advocacy work.

Think about your board members. How many of them chose to join the board because they want to have an impact on your chapter and your industry, and how many are there because they were coerced into taking the job by other board members?

When your members are voluntold (or volunforced) into their position, the outcomes could be much different than what you were expecting.

Being voluntold is the exact opposite of volunteering. Something you may see as a potentially engaging opportunity to make a difference can become something completely different when: 

  • Someone is asked to take on a role but feels they can’t say no.
  • They’re told that they must take the job.
  • Since no one steps up, someone is ordered into a role by a person with higher authority, like the board president, and they have to do it.

When you have a member who feels that taking on a board role is mandatory, the end result could be devastating to the board and your chapter. Maybe the person follows through on  the responsibilities of the role grudgingly, and everyone knows they really don’t want to be there. Soon, they’re irritating everyone around them. When that happens, you’ll find yourself with aggravated board members and a board that doesn’t operate effectively.

Or, perhaps this person says yes and then doesn’t follow through. Maybe she does part of her job or maybe she decides to sit back and let others do it for her. Not only do you have a disgruntled board, but your other board members are struggling to pick up this person’s slack in addition to getting their own work done.

Most of the time, voluforcing doesn’t create a good board dynamic and it negatively impacts your overall volunteer dynamic. The person in the role doesn’t see the value in what they’re doing, and they spend more time making it clear they don’t want to be there than they do on their job.

Rather than risk all that comes with having someone on your board who really has no interest in being there – including wasting your chapter’s precious resources, i.e. the time and money you don’t have a lot extra of, there are changes you can make to make your volunteer needs enticing and engaging to your membership, and get them to step into these roles, and do all that goes with them, willingly.  

To make members more aware of your needs, what the roles involve, and how members benefit from doing chapter volunteer work, try:

Making better use of your technology. Members and guests won’t know about all the needs you have that you find really exciting, like your open board positions, unless you tell them. Make members and guests aware of your volunteer needs, and how members, and the chapter as a whole, can benefit when members take on roles. Post the needs to your website, perhaps in your classifieds or job board, or even in your member benefits section – many of the outcomes of taking a board role outside of a role’s responsibilities – networking, skill improvement, etc. – are benefits members are interested in.

Creating (and using) job descriptions. Want members ready to step into board roles well before your transition? Have descriptions for each role and make them available through your electronic channels. In addition, have a few current and previous board members available to answer questions about the roles, and consider offering shadow days so interested members can better understand what they’d be taking on.

Splitting some of your roles into smaller ones. Your members are busy. To take their harried schedules into consideration, to get the work done that you need, and to give them the opportunities to check out a few different areas, micro-volunteering opportunities can be extremely useful.

When members don’t feel they’ve made their own decision to take on a volunteer role, it defeats the purpose of volunteering and can turn them away from your chapter. Find creative, interesting ways to make your openings visible and more appealing, to get members and guests interested in volunteering and eliminate the need for any volunforcing or voluntelling.

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  1. Helen L Smart

    May. 15, 2020

    Love this information!



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