Many organizations and ministries rely on volunteers to fulfill their missions. Volunteers can help stretch the resources of an organization while also filling valuable roles of service. I have encountered many organizations that become frustrated and discouraged because they are unable to attract committed volunteers. To attract volunteers, begin by understanding what motivates people to give and serve at organizations.
People want to serve, but they want to know their work is valuable and necessary.
Take a look at the volunteer opportunities your organization has. Are the tasks really necessary or are they just busy work? In other words, are they just tasks that no one else wants to do? Committed volunteers will sometimes agree to do a task that is busy work, but only after they are already invested in the organization. To get committed volunteers, identify tasks that are “important” and vital to the work of the organization. If the importance is not readily obvious, help the volunteer see how the task fits in with the mission of the organization.
Identify why volunteers want to serve
We all have different reasons for doing everything we do. And volunteers are no different, their motives for serving can help you to understand whether or not they will be long-term volunteers or they will serve only occasionally.
According to motivational theory, there are three primary reasons volunteers volunteer.
Affiliation – People who have a need for affiliation are those who serve because they want to make friends. They like to get involved with group projects and they want to be perceived as a “good person.”
Achievement- People who are motivated by achievement are those who like goals. Because they like goals, they want their volunteer experience to include goals. These individuals like responsibility and will stick with a task until it is finished-they like the challenge.
Power – Those who have a need for power need to influence others. Throughout their work they are keeping an eye on the entire organization.
However, it is not always easy to find out why someone wants to volunteer…we usually find out why after they begin. Start with an application process for volunteers. The application process needs to include a job description – you wouldn’t hire a staff person without a job description so don’t engage a volunteer without one. Have potential volunteers complete an application and interview with the team where they will be serving. Obviously, the process for short-term (single day projects) will be different than the process you use for ongoing, regular volunteers.
The challenge for most organizations is that they are so desperate for volunteers that they are willing to undermine the entire organizational culture to bring a volunteer in. But, using a process as described above will allow you to match volunteers to roles that best suit who they are and their motivation for volunteering…which will ultimately increase the volunteers’ commitment and service to the organization.
Does your organization have a volunteer recruitment process in place? We can help you create job descriptions, volunteer manuals, etc. Contact us to learn more.