Volunteers: Love Them or Leave Them
I have worked with hundreds of volunteers in my career. They come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with diversity of age, race, sex, religion and a variety of other factors.
You hope volunteers have a passion for your cause and a willingness to freely give their time, talent and treasure without reservations. No two volunteers are alike. Only with experience can a professional truly learn to maximize the positive experience for the volunteer and staff working with the volunteer. Each experience is never the same in duration, intensity and ultimate results.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 64.5 million adults, or 26.5 percent of the adult U.S. population, gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service worth $175 billion dollars in 2012. Independent Sector notes that the value of volunteer time in 2013 was $22.55 per hour.
- 62.6 million people volunteered for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013
- Volunteer rates declined by 1.1 percentage points to 25.4 percent for the year ending in September 2013
- 35- to 44-year-olds were the most likely to volunteer (30.6 percent of total)
- Whites volunteered at 27.1 percent and blacks at 18.5 percent
- Married people volunteered at 30.7 percent and those never married at 20 percent
- 39.8 percent of college graduates volunteered
- Most volunteers were only involved in one or two organizations
- The highest percentage of volunteers served religious organizations (33 percent), followed by education/youth (25.6 percent) and social service/community service (14.7 percent)
A key to volunteer success for your organization is how you motivate volunteers. Several authors highlight what they feel are motivation tools for volunteers. According to consultant Thomas McKee, providing on the job training, being available to assist volunteers and providing positive feedback is a must. He notes you need to "stimulate that inner motivation."
According to Score.org, it is important to provide volunteers with the right motivation by rewarding and recognizing them. Freelance writer Natalie Bracco believes the values of respect and flexibility and leading by example are factors to success. Robin Toal at Funds for NGOs says one must understand volunteers and make them feel valued. She notes that a happy volunteer is a motivated volunteer.
The volunteer experience starts at recruitment. If you recruit someone for the right reasons and you see joy in his or her face, the "good" process begins. If you have to force someone to volunteer, the "bad" process begins.
You need to thoroughly explain what the volunteer will experience. It is helpful to have this information in writing and clearly denote expectations of time. Do not play shell games with volunteers. You will lose every time.
So many organizations carry volunteers who are burned out, tuned out and left the organization mentally some time ago. You need to say goodbye to them with grace and praise, plus begin to recruit fresh blood ASAP. You also must do everything possible to love your volunteers and know each person well enough to understand each individual's needs and wants.
Always emphasize recruitment, orientation and training with clarity of purpose. And always engage volunteers — they are important community ambassadors for your organization. The ultimate goal is to make the volunteer experience one to remember for all the right reasons!
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.