Associations are always in the market for volunteers. But as you probably know all too well, volunteers can be difficult to come by.
If your volunteer program needs a little love (and really, just more bodies), take a step back and ask yourself these four questions:
1. Who makes up our primary volunteer base?
When evaluating a program of any kind, it’s always wise to start off by looking at what you do have. (Chances are, you’re not starting off from scratch.) Who are your primary volunteers? Are they young professionals looking to pitch in and get some hands-on experience? Are they long-term members who’ve been with your association (and in the industry) for a while? What’s the common thread? Is there one?
Start by identifying that, then build upon it if you can. Can you create a campaign targeting that particular demographic? Or at the very least, can you create some kind of appreciation program (if you don’t already have one) for those existing volunteers? That’s your foundation. Nourish it, then build upon it.
2. Are we targeting retired members?
Too often, associations focus exclusively on their current member base. And while that should be your primary focus, it may not need to be your only one, particularly if you have a shortage of volunteers.
Think about former members who are now retired. Are they involved in your association in any shape or form? Could they be potential candidates for volunteer opportunities? Retired members have a lot going for them: They know the industry well and likely are passionate about it; If they had a successful career, they may be inclined to give back; They have a lot of free time that many up-and-coming professionals don’t.
That could be a huge opportunity for your association! Consider putting together a campaign targeting your retired members and asking if they’d be willing to get re-involved. You may need to offer some kind of incentive, but if you approach this correctly, you could wind up with a few extra hands on deck.
Note: This may go without saying, but to boost the likelihood of retired members volunteering, make sure you’re offering plenty of age-appropriate opportunities. (Manual labor and anything involving extreme temperatures may not be the best way to go.)
3. What “red tape” might potential volunteers currently run into?
If you want the green light on more volunteers, you have to stop and think about what organizational “red tape” may currently exist. What might potential volunteers run into that might deter them from actually volunteering? What’s the sign-up process like on your website? Is there a volunteer section with opportunities listed? Are those opportunities descriptive? (In other words, will volunteers know exactly what they’re getting themselves into? How much time is involved, how long the project is expected to take, how many other volunteers will be participating, etc.) What might be intuitive to you might be confusing or unclear to others - meaning hesitation when it comes to signing up.
Our recommendation to you: Have someone outside your organization go through this process. Ask them to go to your website and search for volunteer opportunities (and apply!). Whatever troubles they run into or questions they have, jot those down and make edits accordingly. Removing red tape often increases activity.
4. Are we offering enough (or any) virtual volunteer opportunities?
You probably list your volunteer opportunities online, but how many of those opportunities can actually be completed online? If members always have to physically show up somewhere, you could be turning off some potential candidates, who’d rather complete projects in their own space and in their own time.
What types of virtual volunteer opportunities could you offer? Writing opportunities (for your newsletter, blog, etc.), social media involvement, design opportunities, photo editing, etc. Any project that you could complete online, a volunteer probably could too. (Take some things off your plate!)
Finding volunteers - and keeping them - is tough. For more tips and tricks on creating and sustaining a strong volunteer program, check out our Ultimate Guide to Volunteer Management below!