Not only are volunteers an integral part of most associations’ operational and strategic efforts, they are typically some of the most involved members. Getting more members involved in volunteering may be an overlooked tool to support member engagement, but it can be an effective strategy to cultivate long-term membership.
People volunteer for a variety of reasons. Many are motivated by wanting to give back to their association and their industry. Some want to advance their careers, and the networking, prestige, and exposure that volunteering provides helps them do that.
Volunteering can also be an opportunity for professional development, giving members the chance to gain experience in skills and knowledge areas that may not be part of their day job. Here are a few tips to help your association boost volunteer engagement.
Get help from members
Encourage existing volunteers to reach outside of their networks and connect with people they may not know. People often fill their networks with those who have similar backgrounds and experiences. Challenging them to reach beyond their immediate circle may help them find a more diverse pool of volunteer candidates.
Key groups to make sure members are reaching out to include:
- Affinity groups
- New members
- Young professionals
Share the details
Some members don’t volunteer because they’re not sure what it entails.They don’t know what kind of time and travel commitment is required, or if they have the skills or experience necessary to contribute effectively.
When sharing volunteer opportunities with members—whether through social media, e-blasts or member communities—take time to explain the specifics. Explain what people are going to be asked to do and approximate the time and type of effort required to do it. Also, articulate the skill set needed for the work.
Think about it like a job description. People should be able to look at a call to volunteer and know whether or not it’s something they are able—and willing—to do.
Make sure that prospective volunteers know not just what they will be doing, but how their work contributes to the association’s broader purpose. (Tip: This goes for prospective, new and existing volunteers alike.) Make it clear how the work they are being asked to do helps the organization fulfill its mission.
Outline clear goals
State what goals the organization has for volunteer work. Here’s an example of how to write a clear and compelling goal statment.
Example: The Membership Committee’s goal is to increase recruitment and retention rates through outreach programs.
Your volunteers are giving their time and effort because they want to contribute. Make sure they know why.
Volunteering members are more engaged members, and therefore the most likely to stay with the association and to promote it to others. Investing in a clear and active volunteer program is a win-win for an association. Members get the benefits of volunteering and your team receives valuable and necessary support.
Many associations would be hard up if not for the efforts of their volunteers. Make sure that you are taking the time to build a robust and diverse pipeline for volunteer involvement. It will pay off for years to come.