Leverage the Power of Volunteers to Help Your Association Thrive

A group of volunteers July 10, 2024 By: Natalie Harwood

Volunteerism can help your association increase member engagement and it can support your mission. Be sure you’re making the most of these opportunities.

Member engagement rates are one of the most important indicators of success for any professional or trade association; and volunteer opportunities are a powerful way to increase those rates. Associations can harness the power of volunteerism through a holistic approach—what can you do before, during, and after the activity or campaign to maximize the impact of your volunteers?

It starts with finding the right activity. Then you need to ensure the activity is as productive as possible, use technology to tell the story, and follow up to maintain that engagement and gain data to improve the opportunities you offer.

Provide Meaningful and Satisfying Activities

When crafting a volunteer program for association members, you must first assess what your organization needs in order to accomplish your mission. Volunteers can sense if an activity is make-work. Much like when you are guiding the direction of the organization as a whole, you must evaluate whether volunteer opportunities are actually serving your goals.

One great way to build valuable volunteer opportunities is to task your committees with owning a certain area of volunteer engagement. Committees can be a great way to gather educated professionals who share specific interests—youth engagement, government advocacy for your industry or profession, professional education and development, etc. You already know your committee members are passionate about a particular area and would be willing to volunteer for opportunities within that wheelhouse.

For example, at the Iowa Society of CPAs, we have a committee specifically dedicated to career awareness. Those members were selected specifically for their interest in working with high school and college students; so, if I have a high school career fair or a case competition, I know that by emailing that committee, I can immediately get the volunteers I need. It’s also a benefit for the committee member since it can help them have their finger on the pulse of career promotion in our area, and it can be symbiotic with their own firm’s recruitment efforts. A win-win!

Maximize the Productivity of Your Volunteers

Communication and preparation are key to making volunteer opportunities as effective as possible for member engagement. Communicate all the logistics to volunteers before the event, including parking, weather, and security. If you are working with a host site, be sure to introduce yourself and the volunteers ahead of time.

Once the opportunity is underway, maintaining momentum and engagement is extremely important. Associations should aim to provide a dynamic and enriching experience that not only serves the community but also serves the needs of the volunteers. Make sure any necessary supplies are provided and labeled so the event is plug and play for those helping out.

Don’t underestimate the importance of volunteer brainpower. Not every association member has an afternoon to give, but perhaps they could brainstorm contacts for conference locations, make connections for you with business contacts, or write an article for your website. You can also encourage members to use their company-provided volunteer time off to help your association.

Use Technology To Enhance Volunteer Engagement

Technology, such as social media and registration platforms, play a vital role in enhancing engagement before, during, and after volunteer opportunities. Leveraging social media platforms can increase the visibility of volunteering activities, recognize volunteers for their work, and encourage participation—and by extension, member engagement. By interacting with members on platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and even TikTok, associations can connect more often with members and provide valuable marketing opportunities for your organization and members.

Strategic use of marketing campaigns and hashtags, as well as the fun and engaging pictures that are taken at volunteer opportunities, can further extend reach and attract new audiences. Often, social media content from professional associations feels stale and repetitive; using content related to your volunteer opportunities is a great way to spice up your association pages.

Technology can also be used to ease the logistical burden of often understaffed professional associations. Platforms such as SignUpGenius, SurveyMonkey, or Microsoft Forms can make volunteer sign-up and tracking extremely easy and leave you more time for the valuable work of engaging your members.

Post-Event Engagement

Once the activity or campaign is over, the engagement opportunities should not end. Associations can take this time to say thank you to volunteers, gather feedback, acquire data, and make the connections for future member engagement.

Thank-you emails should include brief surveys with both qualitative data, such as questions on what went well and what pain points were found, as well as quantitative data—how many supplies were used or how many individuals in your target audience were reached. And ideally, you can include photos and clips from the event to share with the volunteers.

It’s important to remember that volunteering opportunities can also be powerful networking tools. Help your volunteers, when possible, by making the connections they request.


Volunteerism offers a chance for professional associations to drive member engagement through valuable service opportunities. It can also generate engaging social media content and offer touch points for members to become more closely connected with your organization.

This article is part of ASAE’s Young Professionals Series. Read stories that reflect your experiences and offer guidance for building a fulfilling and successful career in association management.

Natalie Harwood

Natalie Harwood is the member engagement coordinator at the Iowa Society of CPAs. If you’d like to learn more about how to use volunteer opportunities to meet your members’ engagement needs or to share any opportunities that have worked well for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at nharwood@iacpa.org!