Wednesday, March 21, 2012


If someone does work for you, whether they are a paid employee or a volunteer, they must feel appreciated for having provided a valuable contribution.  Unfortunately volunteers are often forgotten and their hard work is taken for granted or even overlooked.

Volunteers play an integral role for many businesses and organizations by providing, both labor and experience, a substantial economic benefit. With today's shrinking budgets and subsidies, the careful cultivation of a volunteer workforce is crucial. For many of us, planned projects or events could not be executed without the work, knowledge and time donated by volunteers.

By using the full potential of a volunteer workforce, an organization can expand their services; bring about closer ties with the community; increase the organization's opportunities; and provide an enormous amount of manpower. However, acquiring and using volunteers takes effort and planning. Remember that volunteers give their time and talents by choice. The trick is to make them choose your organization as the recipient.

Acquiring Volunteers

In order to attract volunteers, you must plan appropriately. This allows you to determine essential information such as: what type of volunteers you need, how many you need, how long you will need them, where they will be placed, and the exact duties that you will need to assign them. Plan on taking a substantial amount of time to coordinate volunteer hours and train them properly.

Asking someone for help is often viewed as a compliment. It is flattering to be told that your abilities are in demand. Most people enjoy helping, particularly when they know that their labor and knowledge are genuinely needed and will be used effectively to complete an important project.

How you propose to retain your volunteer workforce helps in its acquisition. If you require expertise in a certain area, begin your search at the places where this expertise can be found.  Membership organizations and religious institutions usually have a wealth of talent ready to volunteer for them.  It is important to know who your members are, the skills they bring to your organization and how you can utilize them effectively. 

Convincing People to Volunteer

Do not forget to fully discuss why you need volunteers and what you hope to accomplish. You may even be able to turn your request into their idea. Focus on the good things that will come about when the project is over. Ensure that the work is necessary…no one likes to do “busy” work or feel that they are wasting their time.

Always appreciate the fact that a volunteer is not only using their skills to help you, but they are also donating their time.  They might be taking time off from their paid employment or other activities they participate in.  Make sure that you have things ready for them when they arrive so they can complete the tasks that they are volunteering to do.  Let them know if there are issues that will make their work difficult or take longer then expected. 

Keeping Volunteers

Sharing and distributing information is the first step to keeping volunteers motivated and involved. An active, thorough orientation is mandatory. Make sure that all volunteers understand the project, its background, why it is being done in a particular way, and what their role will be on the project team. Be careful not to treat the volunteer as if they are not a contributing member of the team and don’t ask them to do menial work such as getting coffee or maintenance work. Try to avoid excessive bossing around of volunteers by paid employees.

To further understand how to keep volunteers, it is vital to know their motivation for volunteering in the first place. Since money is not involved, the motivation to freely give their precious time must be very strong.   Supporting a cause, feeling that the can make a difference, to further self-interests or just wishing to help are all valid reasons. It is up to you to politely discover the reasons why they chose to volunteer at your organization and to fulfill their needs as volunteers.

Satisfying these prerequisites will keep your volunteers coming back, often bringing new recruits with them. This is what can ultimately separate your organization from the many others that search for free help. Recognizing and satisfying volunteer needs is the key to acquiring and keeping them.

Even the most resolute volunteer likes to be thanked.  Be sure to distribute thank-you letters, certificates of appreciation or even some words of appreciation. Make sure that everyone involved receives some sort of recognition. The least expensive recognition--and the most often forgotten--is the sincere acknowledgment of an individual's work. Acknowledging and rewarding individual accomplishments are powerful incentives in motivation and retention.

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