Charlotte Muylaert is marketing leader for Billhighway in Troy, Michigan, and a member of ASAE’s Component Relations and Volunteer Management Council.
From microvolunteering to deeper engagement opportunities, these strategies will get more members excited about stepping up—and staying.
Recruiting volunteers can be tricky, especially when you realize you’ve been asking the same people and are at risk of losing them to burnout.
Taking steps to attract and keep more member volunteers requires effort, but not as much as starting from scratch with a blank volunteer roster. Here are five ideas to consider when thinking about how your association can increase your volunteer health score, which takes into consideration the satisfaction level of your volunteers, how many volunteers your organization has ready to help, and the level of willingness volunteers have to dive in.
1. Microvolunteering. Microvolunteering is the concept of offering small, noncommittal opportunities to help the association. It’s essentially the “many hands make light work” approach. These short assignments can lighten the load and prevent burnout in chapter leaders or others while still building the volunteer habit in members. Teaching staff and volunteer leaders how to recruit helpers and delegate tasks is key to success. Make sure they know asking for help isn’t a sign of slacking or weakness. It’s the mark of a leader who provides opportunities for others to pitch in and make a difference.
2. Upselling deeper involvement. When team members effectively delegate and recruit helpers for smaller volunteer tasks, certain people will stand out in the crowd. Helping your leaders learn how to identify qualified volunteers who might enjoy deeper involvement is a great way to keep these valuable players on the volunteer roster, and keep the roster growing.
A well-run program that has a streamlined volunteer experience will usually be more successful at keeping members in the pipeline than one that provides a bumpy or poor experience.
3. Rewarding volunteers. While most volunteers continue to contribute because they want to make a difference, it is still important to recognize and reward them. This makes them feel appreciated and provides greater visibility for your volunteer programs. Finding ways to make volunteers feel special or exclusive, such as being part of a community or being appointed to a committee, is often a good way to do this.
4. Designating a liaison. Depending on your association’s structure and dependency on volunteers, you may want a dedicated staff liaison to manage your programs. This increases your organization’s ability to follow up with volunteers, communicate effectively regarding opportunities and responsibilities, and measure the impact of the volunteer community. A well-run program that has a streamlined volunteer experience will usually be more successful at keeping members in the pipeline than one that provides a bumpy or poor experience.
5. Thanking volunteers. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s so important to remember. Too often, volunteering is a thankless job. Recognizing your volunteers goes a long way. It may take a few extra minutes, but slow down and send a handwritten note, or come up with other ways to give shout-outs to your community—perhaps a headline in the quarterly newsletter or on social media, for example. These accolades not only recognize the volunteer, but can encourage others to join in.
While your volunteer pipeline may not be full yet, be patient. If you focus on helping more people take their first steps by casting a wider net of volunteer opportunities, you’ll eventually have more people stepping up and becoming more involved, and satisfied, members.