Good volunteers are hard to find…or so we tell ourselves. Maybe we just aren’t looking for the right combination of qualities that make someone a valuable association volunteer.
Realistic time commitments
We tend to think a good volunteer is one that has an abundance of time to give. That kind of person simply doesn’t exist! What is more important is to find volunteers who are genuine about the time they can give and what can be done within that limited time. Volunteers struggle and the association suffers when they think they can do it all. They may be passionate about your organization and want to do it all! Fortunately, we can help volunteers be more realistic and see that they can have a positive impact with a volunteer role that fits their schedule.
Given the limited scope of most volunteer roles and the passion of many volunteers, it can be easy to think the project or committee they work with is THE most important thing the association does. In reality it may be one of dozens of ongoing and new projects at any given time. Successful volunteers understand how their specific function fits in the larger whole. This understanding can help the association provide a consistent voice and experience, as well as help the volunteer execute their role more effectively. Volunteer training can help foster this greater understanding.
No volunteer can go it alone, nor should they have to!
Most associations have many younger members eager to get connected and make their mark, as well as more tenured members who want to support the growth of the profession or industry. Association staff may not always know who those people are to be able to get them involved. Current volunteers are the key to engaging new volunteers. Simply tapping new volunteers is not enough though. Effective volunteer leaders know how to engage others, delegate meaningful tasks, and connect members with projects and people that help both the member and the association grow.
Often a volunteer is tapped for leadership because he or she has expertise and experience in the profession or industry the association serves. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have any experience in association management, board governance, or committee management. And that is perfectly okay…if they have an open mind and are willing to learn and lean on others with different expertise. One benefit of volunteering is personal and professional growth. This growth is maximized by volunteers who are eager to both contribute what they already know and learn about areas they don’t.
The next time you are seeking new volunteers, consider these four qualities to help you better match potential volunteers with the needs of the association.