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The RGI Blog

4 Steps to Building an Effective Volunteer Program

Volunteers are essential for any association. They are in tune with your industry, understand the needs and motivations of your members, and are often the ones charged with planning and carrying out association programs, events, and more. But volunteers don’t just appear out of nowhere – it is up to the association and its staff to build an effective volunteer experience. This includes encouraging members to volunteer, giving them the opportunity to do so, and then giving them the tools they need to be successful in their roles. Read below for four tips on building an effective volunteer program:

Give clear expectations

To get involved in the first place, potential volunteers need to know what they are getting into. To make the process easier and more manageable, clearly outline the expectations and responsibilities for volunteer positions, including expected time commitments for each role. This will help beginning volunteers feel comfortable and capable. Consider a task-based approach by giving volunteers an understandable list of expectations that they can meet and exceed.

Focus on building relationships

A major role of associations is to bring people together. A strong volunteer program is one way to do this. It not only brings association staff and volunteers together, but also invites members to participate in discussions with each other. Give your volunteers continued opportunities to work together on association initiatives and discussions and allow them to build lasting relationships. This will benefit both the volunteers themselves and the association at large.

Make sure your volunteers feel appreciated

Next week (April 18-24) is National Volunteer Week, but you should not limit your volunteer appreciation to just those days. Make sure you thank your volunteers whenever possible and give them both the appreciation and recognition they deserve throughout the year. The more you show this appreciation (both publicly and privately), the more encouraged your volunteers will be remain actively involved with your organization.

Be a guiding hand, but not an overpowering presence

When it comes to working with your volunteers, be helpful but not overbearing. Help lead and guide the decision-making process while allowing your volunteers to make the actual decisions. The role of association staff should be facilitating decisions, not making them unilaterally. In this way, you’ll make sure your volunteer groups or committees function cooperatively and successfully.