Note: This post was originally published on 8/19/15; Updated 10/8/18 for added value.
It’s hard (and scary) to imagine a world without volunteers. They do so much! For your association, they probably assist with marketing, event planning, fundraising, etc. And for that reason, it’s important to handle your volunteers with care.
Now you probably do a good job of thanking your volunteers, but in addition to a simple thanks, there are actually five key messages your volunteers WANT to hear. Take a look:
Message #1: “We’re so happy to have you here!”
Just as you welcome new members to your association, you should welcome your volunteers. Don’t wait until they’ve given you something (their time, energy, expertise, etc.) to let them know their presence is appreciated. Let them know from the get-go!
You’ve probably heard this before, but there’s a quote out there that states, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” Show your appreciation (both early and often) and everyone - including your association - will thrive.
Message #2: “Let me introduce you to…”
Getting volunteers is one thing, but keeping volunteers...that’s an entirely separate challenge. On that note though, one of the most valuable things you can do for your volunteers is introduce them to other volunteers/members. By doing this, you’re not only helping them expand their professional network (hello value!), but you’re also helping them form friendships. And if they have a friend in your association, they’re more likely to stay involved in your association.
Message #3: “We’re doing this because…”
It can be hard to put your full energy into something when you don’t really know why you’re doing it. Let your volunteers know why the task at hand is important. Will it help advance your association? Or drive industry change? Let that “why” be known!
Note: Not every project is going to have a clear and noble “why.” For example, let’s say you need volunteers to help with registration at your next event. Well, that may not drive industry change, but it will lead to a more pleasant experience for your members, increasing the chances of them staying with your association. That’s a pretty important “why,” and still deserves to be communicated!
Message #4: “Whatever works best for you!”
The key to getting volunteers nowadays is flexibility. If you’re not willing to be flexible - with days, times, projects, etc. - you’re immediately cutting your volunteer pool in half. Allow your volunteers to leave a little early. Or finish up projects at home. The more you’re willing to work with volunteers, the more they’ll be willing to work with your association.
Message #5: “We did it!”
Who doesn’t love the feeling of accomplishment? Knowing you achieved what you set out to achieve is the BEST feeling. Let your volunteers experience that and indulge in that.
For example, if a member comments about how seamless registration was or how much they enjoyed your event (which you had volunteers assist with), share that feedback with your volunteers! Or if you had record attendance, share that too! This type of acknowledgement makes your members 1) feel appreciated, and 2) much, much, MUCH more likely to volunteer again - because they know what they did had an impact. And hey, that feels GOOD!
For more tips on recruiting and retaining volunteers at your association, check out our Ultimate Guide to Volunteer Management below!