What Volunteers Need.

May 15, 2011

Volunteer Hands

Courtesy of anankkml.

I couldn’t possibly have written the last two posts about volunteerism and not finished off with talking about what volunteers need from the charities and associations that they are volunteering for. I am writing this post from my perspective as someone who has worked for an association, served as a president for a chapter of a charity and someone who volunteers with associations. These observations are based on what I have done well, what I wish I had done and what I wish organization had done to help make me a better volunteer. As always, I welcome you to add to my thoughts or disagree if you think I’m wrong. If you like what I have to say, let me know how you can incorporate these suggestions into your organization’s volunteer structure.

Seven Tips on What Volunteers Need.

1. Figure out what jobs need to be done before asking for volunteers. This isn’t always possible, but the more that you can clearly define responsibilities, the easier it can be to get things done.

2. Communicate time lines and give as much lead time as possible. While volunteers may be eager to help, the earlier that they know what is the expected, the better they can plan their time.

3. When scheduling meetings, keep them as brief as possible and decide in the beginning who is taking notes. Make sure that the note taker distributes action items as soon as possible so that the work can begin.

4. Make introductions. Many people volunteer for networking reasons. As an organizer, you get to know people pretty well. Help people to connect whenever possible.

5. Communicate what is possible and what the approval process is. Nothing can be more frustrating to volunteers who have ideas that go nowhere. Sometimes budget restrictions prevent ideas from being executed, but it is important to acknowledge ideas and let people know where they stand. There are times when an idea might not be a fit at the current time, but might be a home run in the long term.

6. Think outside of the box. When volunteers have great ideas, think about how they can happen. For example, if a volunteer has an idea that has a cost associated with it, rather than saying no, think about how it can be funded. Can it be sponsored? Can elements be donated? Can the idea be redesigned to achieve the same goal with a little tweaking?

7. Say thank you. Volunteers often pitch in without expecting anything in return. You know that your organization needs them. Remembering to be gracious can go a long way.

Volunteers, what do you need from the organizations that you assist? Charities and associations, what are you doing to support your volunteer base?