March 2, 2020
Mark your calendar: National Volunteer Week is April 19-25 this year. Besides recognizing the members who’ve given their time and talent to your association, it’s a good time of year to review volunteer management practices and spot areas for improvement. Where better to start than at the beginning—volunteer recruitment.
Volunteering is one of the most potentially transformative membership benefits, but many members think they don’t have enough time to volunteer. With demanding work schedules, long commutes, and always-connected office cultures, they feel like their job and everything related to it already eats up a big part of their lives. What little time is left over might be devoted to family or parenting obligations, household chores, busy social lives, and the need to just chill.
But like anything, once volunteering becomes a part of your life, perhaps a biweekly or monthly habit, time magically appears. The challenge is: how do you get members to dip their toes into volunteering?
Your organization needs a wide spectrum of volunteering opportunities so you have something to offer at every level of time commitment. For a new volunteer, a traditional volunteering role that requires a good deal of time, such as serving on a committee, will feel like a shock to their system.
Taking on a substantial volunteer role right away is usually too much too fast. If they can’t fit this role into their life easily, they could end up feeling stressed, resentful, or guilty if they have to pull back from volunteering responsibilities. Another one bites the dust!
Instead, offer ad hoc or microvolunteering opportunities for members who aren’t yet willing or able to give lots of time. With microvolunteering, members can volunteer when and how they wish, without having to make a long-term or heavy commitment of time.
Microvolunteering is not a new concept. Associations and nonprofits have always had microvolunteers who welcome attendees at a registration table, moderate roundtable or panel discussions, or participate for an hour in a community service project.
Microvolunteering provides many benefits for members because it allows them to:
Your association benefits as well from microvolunteering because it helps you to:
The first step is to ask staff, directors, and committees to identify any microvolunteering opportunities in the work they normally do—or would like to do. Here’s a list to get you thinking:
Committees are a great source of microvolunteering tasks because they sometimes unintentionally hoard involvement opportunities by dividing tasks amongst themselves.
Keep an updated list of microvolunteering opportunities on your website or member portal. Include an example or two in each newsletter. Share them in your social media updates too.
When a member is ready to invest more time in volunteering, perhaps by serving on a committee or the board, they still want to spend that time wisely. Waste a committee member’s time and you probably won’t see them again next year.
Practice smart (and responsible) meeting management.
Before a member takes on a committee role, make sure they understand what’s expected of them, for example, their responsibility for preparing for the meeting and following up with action items assigned to them.
Your association can also help members who can’t take time away from work because their employer isn’t cooperative—a different problem requiring a different solution.
Instead of selling the member on the benefits of microvolunteering, you have to sell their employer. Education is a powerful means of persuasion. Create a webpage, handout, and email template that promotes the benefits of employee volunteering for employers, such as:
Employers aren’t the only ones who don’t understand the benefits of volunteering—many members don’t either. In our next post, we’ll describe several other obstacles to volunteering, including the lack of knowledge about its benefits. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the volunteer management solution within MemberSuite’s all-in-one AMS.