De-motivating Your Volunteers?
Volunteerism is surging as everyone is more aware of the lagging economy, unemployment, and the current squeezing of those in the lower-income bracket. Food banks, Toys for Tots, volunteer corps report great increases of offers to help. Naturally, your organization wants to ride this wave and attract new and motivated volunteers.
Rather than offer a list of what-to-do to attract volunteers, turn it upside down and let’s look at what might be a turn-off to a prospective volunteer?
- Is your organization focused on providing the kind of positions volunteers might actually want? Sure, many people volunteer because they want to make a difference (feed needy children). This is the volunteer’s goal. If your program is based on the organization’s goal (get this mailing out), then the experiences you’re offering volunteers may not meet their needs. (Of course, there’s a connection between the mailing and feeding the children, but your first assignment is to create opportunities to help that will mesh with the volunteer’s needs.)
- What is the expected time commitment? People volunteer with varying expectations as to how much time they would like to volunteer. If the volunteer is currently unemployed and is looking to fill her time, but you only need help on Monday evenings, be sure you are both on the same page. You don’t want to feel that you have to provide her a job three nights a week (and struggle to find things a volunteer can do). On the other hand, don’t sign up someone to chair the gala if they will be on a cruise the month of the event.
- What is the opportunity for relationship and meaningful encounters with clients? When people volunteer to “make a difference,” they may picture face-to-face contact with the people served. If legalities prohibit such direct interaction with clients, make sure the volunteer understands exactly what the work does and doesn’t entail.
- Does the volunteer feel passionate about your cause? A volunteer who volunteers simply because they live in the neighborhood, or their friend volunteers with you, probably won’t enjoy the experience and may not stay long. Try to invest your volunteer-handling time in people who are more likely to increase their involvement.
- Do you feed the volunteers’ passion by giving them opportunities to hear the stories of the people you serve? Even if the volunteer assignment isn’t face-to-face, arrange for volunteers to have some kind of “live” experience of your work. Let them hear the stories that bring life to your cause.
- Do you have a volunteer structure in place to maintain the volunteers? Of course, you probably don’t have the funds to build an entire volunteer department, but there is no point in accepting volunteers if you don’t have a way to make sure the volunteer assignment continues to meet their needs, solve problems as they occur, and acknowledge their work. A disgruntled ex-volunteer won’t help your reputation in the community.
Volunteers are an important part of your audience. They have come forward offering to engage. Be sure you have in place opportunities for volunteers that will meet their needs while still meeting yours. Just as you respect your donors by building a case that meets their needs, respect your volunteer audience by offering the experience they are seeking. It pays off.