In my last blog, I talked about what it means to be a volunteer, the difference between being a true volunteer and being a “voluntold,” and the benefits of being a volunteer. In this blog, I will talk more about what you can do to attract volunteers again and keep them engaged moving forward, including talking about different sectors where volunteerism can work outside of the traditional non-profit approach.
Just like marketing, word of mouth is the best way to attract and retain volunteers. If you are getting good press about your mission and goals, it can inspire more conversations and encourage more people to say yes. People want to help with something that inspires them, but that is getting a lot of positive coverage. The more your message spreads, the easier it is to get and retain those volunteers. That sounds easy enough, but the hard part is getting that initial good coverage. How do you do that?
Most people volunteer because of their value system. They believe in the mission of the organization and they are willing to help donate their time and talents to meeting those goals. Beyond that, some of the main reasons people volunteer are:
- They like to be social and volunteering is a good way to meet a variety of people;
- Volunteering can heighten someone’s creativity or entice someone with a new and interesting challenge;
- Some individuals have a sense of duty to volunteer just like they do to vote or give blood;
- Variety is the spice of life and a lot of people will volunteer just to do something different than what they do on a daily basis; and
- Last but not least, people volunteer if they have an interest in the cause or the outcomes
Focus on the above bullet list of reasons and that positive word of mouth press coverage will start to happen on its own.
Where To Find Volunteers
Finding volunteers is not as easy as looking them up in the classified ads. A lot of people only associate volunteers with non-profit organizations like schools, churches, and community or social groups. While these organizations have the lion’s share of volunteers because of the amount of them that exist, there are other ways to find and engage volunteers. These are great places to find volunteers, but they are not the only places to look.
One place to look is where you live. A lot of people are willing to help out their community, working with City/County leaders to find out what needs done and to do it. Have you noticed the people that water planters in your downtown, keep your park spaces nice and clean, or even organize community events and festivals like parades or Santa’s village? People that live in a place are the most likely people to be invested so make sure you are investing time in them and their needs as well. Most people overlook the fact that volunteers are right under their noses, doing things that can make their community more enjoyable and inviting without even realizing that they would be a volunteer.
Another place to look is local businesses. It might sound odd to associate for-profit businesses (restaurants, retail, etc.) with the idea of a volunteer, but businesses can benefit a lot from volunteers. Again, it’s all in how you define a volunteer and how you align them with your goals and mission. Have you ever noticed the person at a local business that will suddenly jump and help during a busy rush? Maybe they are helping sack the items customers are purchasing. Maybe they are helping bus tables so staff can get a table turned faster. Maybe they are even doing a cursory wipe down of a bathroom or taking out the trash really quick. All of these people might not consider themselves volunteers, but that is what they are and the work they are doing is helping out those businesses.
These three areas (non-profits, cities/counties, and local businesses) are gold mines of volunteers. They are generally already involved and they have a desire to do something good for people they know and the places they live. All they need to be involved with you is a good reason to be involved. Make sure you have those reasons handy and you will find it much easier to get volunteers.
The Unsung Heroes
Volunteers are really the unsung heroes of every community. Some places will recognize volunteers occasionally, but it pales in comparison to how much work the volunteers do in a community. All volunteers share the ability to spread the good news of what you are doing and promoting your mission. Make sure that you are working with them where they are in order to help move your mission forward. There is no need to recreate the wheel on finding volunteers.
And make sure that you are working with your volunteers. Not just to get the work done, but to make sure that they are feeling that value and that they are helping promote the idea of volunteerism. Do they have ideas that might make it easier to meet your goals? Do they know people that might be interested in one-time or one-off volunteering that doesn’t require a long-time commitment? Are they willing to be the catalyst and the marketing officer of your volunteer efforts and goals? Volunteers are not just mindless automatons that work to help you; they are a vital part of a community and you need to recognize them as such. The old adage that “Success breeds success” is true, but so it’s seemingly lesser known corollary that “Respect breeds respect.” Volunteers are the unsung heroes of so many efforts in our world and the sooner that is recognized and respected, the more successful our communities will become.
Watch For My Next Blog!
In my next blog, I will talk about crisis management. 2020 changed the lives of billions of people around the world and those changes are not done just because we flipped the calendar to a new year. So while planning is always important, we will talk about how to recognize and handle crisis as a vital part of those planning efforts.