Give Members What They Want: Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Ops November 30, 2018

People join associations for career development, but giving back to their profession also motivates them to join. Associations benefit too: ASAE Foundation research finds that members who volunteer are likely to be more engaged.

You provide benefits and services to your members, but are you also engaging their desire to serve their profession? ASAE Foundation research suggests that the chance to give back to a professional community both motivates membership and keeps members engaged.

The ASAE Foundation research brief 7 Drivers of Membership summarizes key findings from the foundation’s ongoing research on membership, including The Decision to Join and Exploring the Future of Membership. Among the insights: Research respondents placed a high value on the benefits they receive from their associations, but they are just as motivated by the opportunity to serve their profession. And when they do volunteer, the association benefits as well—volunteering at any level makes members more engaged.

Involving more members in diverse volunteer opportunities creates a critical diversity of opinions and experiences among volunteer leaders and expands the leadership pipeline.

The type of volunteer activity makes a difference. Member perspectives shift according to their degree of volunteer engagement and the roles they perform. Board members place a higher value on strategic activities, such as influencing legislation, than rank-and-file members do. But even involvement in ad hoc roles increases members’ perception of the value of their association.

Involving more members in diverse volunteer opportunities increases their awareness and appreciation of association activities. It also creates a critical diversity of opinions and experiences among volunteer leaders and expands the leadership pipeline. But traditional committee structures that require face-to-face meetings may be a barrier to engagement. Informal volunteer activities—including short-term micro-volunteering opportunities and virtual volunteering—appeal to many members and enable an association to connect with a broader cross-section of its community.

The ASAE ForesightWorks “Socializing Reshaped” and “Next-Gen Professionals” action briefs describe virtual volunteering, often conducted through social media, as increasingly desirable among professionals. Associations can leverage this trend by connecting with younger members and potential members who are already using their online social networks to participate in fundraising and advocacy. Two elements are key to successful virtual volunteer engagement. First, the volunteer opportunities must be activities that volunteers can complete online or through social media. Second, whatever social media or online channels you use, the association and the volunteers must convey a consistent message.

Volunteering online is not just a tactic to recruit younger members; it also works well for members who struggle to balance competing demands in and out of the workplace. According to the ASAE Foundation report Mutually Beneficial Volunteerism, time constraints were the most common reason that survey respondents gave for not volunteering. This was true for members who had previously volunteered as well as those who had never volunteered. These members could be prime candidates for short-term virtual volunteer projects that could be completed on a flexible schedule.

Members who can see that they are giving back to their profession and to their association tend to be more satisfied with their membership. Providing opportunities to contribute to as many members as possible creates a path toward broader recruitment and increased engagement, satisfaction, and retention.