As a professional who works with and teaches other professionals how to engage volunteers at all levels, it does amaze me that some of the biggest challenges in volunteerism comes from the leadership table. Whether it is boards or committees, I have noticed that the basics of volunteer management, the process to find and place the best volunteer for the best role, does either not apply or is not well executed in many organizations and associations.
- Why do we encourage board leadership and engagement but do not give them the tools and resources to do this?
- Why do we not vet board and committee members for motivation, skills, experience and expectations?
- Why do we not orient leadership volunteers in a way that allows for smooth transitions?
- Why do so many boards and committees not have succession plans?
I have decided to start writing a series of articles on board and committee leadership to enhance the workshops that I teach on these topics and have decided that I am going to share some of that with my many groups and colleagues on a regular basis.
So this is the first section on recruitment:
What do volunteers want?
Choice, Control, Customer service, clear role descriptions, recognition, flexibility, training and orientation and understanding where their role fits in the larger picture to name a few
So understanding who todays volunteers are is key to finding the right volunteer.
Secondly, you need to recognize the gaps in your board or committee. Where are you missing certain skills? What skills are going to be needed to continue to grow and reach your goals?
So here are some tips to where to find the right board or committee member.
- Use your networks: you are connected in so many ways through your personal and professional life. Think about where you belong, what associations you have and make a list
- Solicit feedback from others: find out what others think about your organizations: what is the buzz
- Ask questions about why people may be interested in volunteering at a leadership level and see what people think. Knowing what and who you are from the outside is key. I have worked with organizations that no-one knows who they are and what they do. What a missed opportunity?
- Start a conversation: whether at a function or out socially or at work….start talking about what you do as a volunteer and how others can get involved. Sometimes it is as easy as that. Did you know that the most popular reason why people do not volunteer is…..they are not asked
- Invite them to learn more and reflect on their experience: it is key to ensure that the potential volunteer knows what they are committing to, so invite them for coffee, shadow a committee meeting or board function…give them some to feel the connection and see where they feel they fit in
- Follow up promptly: don’t wait to long to move the potential volunteer to the next step…they are not excited and full of ideas that you want to capture
- Target, Target, Target: know what you are looking for (write a role description) and go to where those skills are abundant
So where do you look for volunteers :
- Professional associations
- Educational institutes
- Service clubs
- Business community
- Those who do not know about your service
- Your community leaders
- Internal contacts
What do you recruit for?
Diversity; Passion; Excitement; Experience; Willingness to learn; Professional connections; Encourage different disciplines to get involved; Expertise; Balance on the board or committee
Develop a recruitment plan and evaluate it on a monthly basis.
A couple of thoughts:
Do not recruit for the sake of recruiting especially for a committee. Do you need a standing committee? Could it be project based or adhoc? You want to make sure that your volunteers have a role, a path and an understanding of the impact of what they are doing.
Next time……….placing, screening and orientation
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com for any further assistance