Since April is Volunteer Appreciation Month, I am going to continue to discuss the importance of volunteers to nonprofits. Over the past two weeks, I have covered best practices in volunteer recognition and recognizing volunteers on a shoestring budget. Every nonprofit that I talk with tells me that they are in need of more volunteers…either because they are worried about “burn out” amongst their volunteer pool or because they do not have enough volunteers to fulfill their missions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, volunteerism fell to 25.4% of Americans in 2013; this represents about two million fewer volunteers than 2012. While there are several reasons put forth by researchers as to why this is happening, nonprofits can be successful in attracting volunteers if they understand how to attract volunteers. Attracting volunteers begins with understanding why people are motivated to volunteer.
It helps to understand the basics of motivational theory to understand why people do or don’t volunteer. People are generally motivated by three broad “needs” in their lives. Those with a need for Affiliation are people who want personal interaction, to make friends, and be perceived as a “good” person. Those with a need for Achievement have specific goals they want work toward; these individuals seek responsibility and view problems as challenges. Those with a need for Power have a need to impact and influence others; these people will generally keep an eye on the overall goals of the organization.
So, as you think about attracting and retaining volunteers, think about why people want to volunteer. What need in their life are they trying to fulfill? Obviously, it can be uncomfortable to ask potential volunteers, “do you want to volunteer because you have a need for achievement.” However, what you can do (and should do) is include a couple of questions on your volunteer application that ask why the individual wants to volunteer and why they are attracted to your organization.
Your organization can be successful in attracting volunteers! Share with us what has worked for you. Is your organization struggling? We can help you put together a successful program for volunteers.