Boost a Volunteer Base With Simple Opportunities

By: Myrta Stager

The National Council of University Research Administrators shares how it doubled its volunteer base in just a few years. (Titled "Sign-up Strategy" in the print edition.)

In 2005, the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) made a commitment to expanding its volunteer base. It has been tough work, but we've been successful, growing our volunteer ranks from 154 to nearly 800 (among a membership of more than 7,000). Here are a few simple initiatives that worked for us:

  1. Volunteer portal and bank. We created a volunteer portal on the NCURA website that provides one location for information on the benefits of volunteering, current calls for volunteers, volunteer position descriptions, and an online volunteer application. From those who apply, we maintain a bank of potential volunteers to whom we send upcoming calls for volunteers and short-term volunteer opportunities. We strive to connect every member from the volunteer bank with an assignment.
  2. YouTube Tuesdays. Each week, NCURA members share tips and information on topics of interest to research administrators via short video clips. They're typically less than two minutes long and make for a short, simple opportunity for volunteers to contribute to our knowledge pool.
  3. Campus liaison program. We provide monthly announcements of upcoming NCURA educational offerings and resources with our campus liaisons, who have offered to share this information via their intracampus email listservers. We currently have volunteers at 200 university campuses.

These and other efforts have worked so well that we now have more interested volunteers than jobs. That presents another challenge, of course, but it's a better problem to have than too few volunteers to pursue our goals.

Myrta Stager retired in July 2012 after seven years as manager of volunteer and regional relations at the National Council of University Research Administrators in Washington, DC.

Myrta Stager