The Association Blog: News and Resources for Association Executives

How Volunteers Can Be Your Greatest Asset

Posted by Carrie Kolar on Aug 10, 2016 4:46:13 PM

how volunteers can be your greatest assetMembership organizations want to provide the best possible value and services to their members, but they don’t always have unlimited resources. What do you do when you have a role that you can’t pay someone to fill? Ask for volunteers! Volunteers play a large role in membership organizations, from serving on boards and committees to taking tickets and cleaning up after events. Here, we talk about how to attract volunteers to your organization, the best ways to utilize your volunteers, and how volunteers can be your greatest asset.

How to Attract Volunteers

You’ve decided to leverage volunteers to help your organization, you’ve drawn up volunteer roles, and you have the organization down pat. But how do you actually get the bodies in the room and people to fill those roles? One way to bring on volunteers is to ask your new members at the very beginning if they’re interested in a volunteer position. New members are usually filled with excitement and energy about joining your organization, so it can be relatively easy to channel that energy into a volunteer role. For example, the National Association of Women Business Owners sends new members a survey to gauge their interest in volunteering on a committee and determine what committee would be the best fit for them. As you’re recruiting, emphasize how the volunteer role can benefit that person, rather than the organization. If you link volunteering to the individual’s own intrinsic drives, they’re more likely to volunteer and be passionate about their work.

Ways to Utilize Volunteers

Having people volunteer to help your organization is great, but it presents a couple of questions. How do you best utilize them? What role best fits their abilities and your needs? You can’t just throw people at volunteer roles willy-nilly. It takes thought and planning to make the most of your volunteers. To best utilize the talent you’re given, try to match volunteers with roles according to their skill and interest level. If you have a writer volunteering, maybe they should serve as a secretary. If you have someone who doesn’t like interacting with a lot of people, maybe don’t have them act as a greeter at events. The more closely you can match your roles with your volunteers, the better job they’ll do and the easier your life will be. An additional consideration is the amount of time volunteers can donate. Volunteers don’t have to take years-long committee roles to be useful. If a volunteer doesn’t want a long-term commitment, look for other ways they can help, such as at one-off events signing people in or manning tables.

The Benefits of Volunteers

While the free labor aspect of volunteers is great, the benefits of utilizing volunteers goes beyond the obvious financial boon. Volunteering is an opportunity for members to become active and engaged in your organization, and volunteering increases the likelihood that the member will renew or potential member will join. Volunteers who give their time and energy to your cause are also more likely to become advocates and ambassadors for your organization. Finally, any member who starts volunteering is a potential future leader for your organization. By meeting with volunteers, identifying those with leadership potential, and cultivating them with a combination of positive reinforcement and increased responsibility, you can create a funnel of organization leadership for years to come.

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Topics: volunteer organizations, managing volunteers