Asking for volunteers and really getting the most out of their activity can be a struggle. Everyone feels the “there are only so many hours in a day” sentiment, your members included. It can be difficult for them to commit to yet another regularly scheduled activity - let alone give it their all when it comes after a crazy day at the office.
It becomes quite the conundrum when your association relies on volunteers to provide certain benefits, or even to function. If you can identify with these difficulties, it might be time to rethink your association’s volunteer structure. Take a look at these trends and think about how they could fit into (or even replace!) the ways you currently drum up volunteers:
Micro-volunteering is becoming a macro trend. Instead of creating committees that are bound to regular activity from the same members week after week, associations are breaking responsibilities down into smaller, one-off jobs. In doing so, members are able to sign up for the tasks that fit their schedule and commit on their own terms. Implementing the change will take some leg work, but the increase of member engagement will make it worthwhile in the end!
Why ask for members to volunteer to do things they aren’t particularly good at? Part of your micro-volunteering initiatives could include segmenting out tasks by specific skill. Members would be far more likely to commit if they are confident in their ability to get it done. You’ll get more volunteers and increased member engagement, they’ll hone their skills and promote their own expertise to the rest of your members. Win-win!
This strategy would be especially beneficial for new members or first-time attendees who are nervous and not sure what to expect. Help them get their feet wet and meet other members with a few hours spent volunteering! There are a ton of incentives and extra benefits you could offer in exchange for their time: a discount on registration, access to a VIP lounge, a thank you dinner with all volunteers, extra drink tickets, and a guaranteed spot in a popular session - to name a few.
Not to exclude your other members, but promoting select volunteer opportunities just to your young professionals will help deepen their loyalty to the association, all while solving your “lack of enthusiastic volunteers” problem. Recent graduates are looking for those “extracurriculars,” more ways to network and relevant experience they can put on their resume. Plus, those who are still working up the courage to try things outside their comfort zone will be more likely to offer up their time when they know they’ll be with members who are (or have recently been) in their shoes.
On the flip side, your retired members will have more time to give and can noticeably strengthen your efforts with their years of expertise. They are also an excellent source of mentorship for younger volunteers (and staff)! Try segmenting your membership by career stage and see how engaged this group already is with volunteering. If they aren’t - is there more you could be doing to communicate opportunities in a way that will resonate?
And when all else fails - why not extend opportunities to non-members? Just think about how effective this could be in converting prospects into members. There are plenty of people outside your association who are interested in being involved, but don’t have the time (or money) to commit completely yet. Show them what life on the inside is like so you’re top of mind and they’re encouraged to join when the time is right!
Volunteers are truly the backbone to most associations, but it’s important that you ask for their time in a way that will provide value to them, too. These ideas will surely shake things up and help you hone in on soliciting more engaged and repeat volunteers. That being said, there are definitely some tried and true best practices that will create a successful foundation for your volunteer program. For tips on recruiting, onboarding and retaining your volunteers, check out our free Small-Staff Guide to Volunteer Management!