Volunteers – At the Heart of Every Association

2015-4-14 Volunteers
Image Credit: Mayur Gala

Stevie Kernick, owner emeritus

Volunteers are at the heart of every association’s mission. It’s volunteers that serve on the Board of Directors and lead strategic initiatives. It’s volunteers that donate time to the committees that drive strategic plan deliverables. It’s frequently volunteers who deliver educational content to an association in the form of webinars, as conference session leaders and producing work products and papers. And it’svolunteer icon volunteers that provide support to both small and large staffs in high volume situations like annual conferences, workshops and seminars.

So how does an association ensure the continued commitment of volunteers? Some members will step up to volunteer with little or no enticement. Other members will never volunteer no matter what the incentive. And, then, there are the “other ones.”

Every association has a pool of untapped volunteers. They are the “other ones.” Let’s focus efforts on how to reach that audience of potential volunteers with so much to offer to the association.

There are some simple steps to take to keep volunteer opportunities in the forefront with all members.

  • Add a checkbox to indicate interest in volunteering on all collateral sent to or available for members – correspondence, membership renewal forms, membership applications, conference and event registrations
  • Place a link to volunteer opportunities on the homepage of your website
  • Devote a section of your website to providing information about volunteering
  • Utilize the association’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media outlets to alert members about a need or when new volunteer opportunities are presented

Engage your members in a dialogue about the volunteer process when you are face-to-face at conferences or special events. Include this as a standing agenda item for the Annual Membership Meeting. In person is an ideal opportunity to promote the association’s activities to the membership and ask for their participation.

Never underestimate the power of the “ask.” Members who won’t reach out and volunteer on their own may willingly respond if an opportunity is presented to them in person. The one-on-one discussion also provides a chance to assess the member’s interests and strengths allowing you to match them with an ideal volunteer position. There are very few who, when asked, will say no.

Try to offer a variety of opportunities to provide volunteer support beyond the traditional committee appointments. A taskforce within a committee or an ad hoc taskforce are traditionally more short-lived than a committee appointment and allows new volunteers to experiment with a short-term project and then, hopefully, take on a more significant role.

Some members may not have the bandwidth to commit to a committee or a taskforce appointment but would willingly proofread newsletter articles or white paper drafts.

It’s important to think beyond the usual volunteer roles and consider different models with which to engage members in volunteer activities.

Remember that not every method will be effective for every organization or for every potential volunteer but with a bit of creativity you can increase the emotional buy-in and participation of your members in the important work of their association.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us info@imiae.com to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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