Lackluster volunteerism. The unanimous, and not surprising answer to the top challenge chapter leaders experience. It’s either not enough volunteers, less committed volunteers, or volunteer burn-out. How can we at the national level help solve this problem so common at the local level? Help local groups think differently. Coach your chapters on how to attract today’s volunteer. If we really want to help solve this, take two more steps: (1) actively help them recruit volunteers and (2) invest in volunteer training.

(1) Encourage chapters to embrace today’s volunteer. Help your chapters in 4 ways:

  • Use teams vs. committees. It’s partially semantics (committee feels like a long-term, time-consuming commitment while team says fun). It’s also scaling the role to what it really takes to get the job done.
  • Embrace micro- volunteering. Identify ways people can contribute in a more ad hoc manner. And very importantly recognize the volunteers who serve in this way.
  • Acknowledge and reward chapters who recruit and recognize ad hoc and micro-volunteers. In your chapter reports, do you ask how many members are doing some type of ad hoc or micro-volunteering? Do you ask how many micro-volunteering opportunities chapters offer?
  • Remove barriers that require fully traditional volunteer models such as a list of required committees or designated board roles. Let chapters have flexibility to create a variety of volunteering opportunities.

(2) Launch a new process for recruiting new volunteers. Help your chapters focus on the person not the position in these three ways.

  • The New NomCom. Shift from succession planning to talent development. Shift from “nominating committee” to “talent council.” Shift from “nominating committee chair” to “chief talent scout.” Recruit a team of scouts who connect people with all the different ways, big and small, they can get involved. The goal is a vibrant community that works together. Want to learn more? Check out Fixing the Volunteer Pool: The Talent Scout.
  • Set up portals. Here is where you can really help. Take a look at a couple of examples:
    -One organization has a “Meet Your Neighbors. Volunteer at Your Local Chapter” and explains why and how members can volunteer at the local level.
    -Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants invites members to get involved today by volunteering for one of your chapter’s committees or signing up for a chapter project.
    -Another organization emphasizes volunteering of all types on their website. They display a visual showing a continuum of volunteering, giving members the opportunity to complete a volunteer profile and provide a list of volunteer opportunities. Many of which are micro-volunteering.
  • Include metrics for your chapters. It’s not do they have a succession plan, but how robust is their volunteer community? Instead of a plan, do they have a volunteer portal that promotes volunteering and makes volunteering as easy as possible.

(3) Coach leaders to engage volunteers. One of the low-hanging fruit changes is helping volunteer leaders know how to create dynamic board/committee/volunteer meetings. One simple idea is mixing up meeting venues. Hold them at places people want to visit. For example, one organization held a board meeting at a local manufacturing plant because their members wanted to go behind the scenes and see the operations.

(4) Offer accessible training. Of the top five reasons for beginning to volunteer from ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer research, number two is having the skills. When you can tell someone accessible training is available, you can help overcome the skill barrier. It offers a bonus to volunteering – learning a new skill or increasing knowledge in an area of interest.

(5) Low-hanging fruit:  Eight actions you can take right away!

  • Be an active partner in recruiting members to serve on our local boards
  • Ask a national board or committee member completing their term, to consider serving at the local level
  • Keep a list of local/state volunteer opportunities to refer to members
  • Consider adding local volunteer service to your continuing education requirements
  • Ask your national leaders to recruit colleagues in their organizations to sit on local boards
  • Make it easy for members to invite others to volunteer
  • Make a personal introduction for a current chapter leader to a future leader
  • Take care in recruiting for national positions so you don’t drain the local talent

If lackluster volunteerism and volunteer succession planning is a challenge for your organization, implement these five tips. Soon, your volunteer succession planning will seem like a challenge of the past.

Peggy M. Hoffman is president and Mariner’s resident expert on communication, marketing and building community. Learn more about Peggy Hoffman, here.

Learn more about NetForum Enterprise and what it can do for your organization.