When Will You Make a Volunteer Deposit?
I had the honor of recently attending a volunteer reception hosted by the Indiana Division of The Salvation Army. Attendees ranged in age from 4 to older than 90 years old. I knew many of the attendees as they participate in a variety of volunteer activities each year. The format for the event was very simple. It consisted of plenty of food and candy. Volunteers also received gifts plus, plenty of thanks for jobs well-done. Many of the volunteers have served in a variety of roles. At one table, I noticed current and former advisory board members. At another table, I noticed women’s auxiliary leadership. At other tables, I could see volunteers and immediately correlate them to particular service events. While we had a diverse group, one thing was in common—the attendees loved serving The Salvation Army because they deeply believed in the mission of the organization.
I spent time during and after the volunteer event meeting and chatting with many volunteers. I wanted to informally ask them why they volunteered and what The Salvation Army meant to them. The second part of the question led to standard responses. The Salvation Army helps those in need by providing an array of services. Volunteers believed in the mission and felt compelled to help their fellow man and woman. These volunteers give of their time, talents and treasures to support The Salvation Army’s focus of "Doing the Most Good." The volunteers felt they made differences to their fellow man and woman in a variety of ways. You could see the pride and joy in the eyes of these wonderful people. For many, their regular work careers were in the rear view mirror. Their new volunteer work career was now and in the future.
I totally enjoyed interviewing these volunteers. I asked them why they volunteered. In each case, they paused before they spoke. They gave a great deal of thought to the question.
Some of their responses included these key points:
- It does me the most good to help The Salvation Army "Do The Most Good."
- It is rewarding and fulfilling to give back to others.
- It is self-gratifying and always a positive experience to help.
- It provides me with unlimited goodwill.
- I love the organization and want to touch people that need my service.
- I want to give back to society and make a difference.
- It is the perfect way to reach others and spend time with those in need.
- I enjoy helping others and give people faith, hope and love.
- I want to help people that need help the most.
The list continued to grow with each contact. These volunteers would not trade their roles for anything. They have joyfully provided service for many years for a variety of causes and, in some cases, have taught their children to follow in their footsteps. The most meaningful comment to me was: "We make withdrawals in life every day. The most important question is when will we make a volunteer deposit?"
It is a joy for me to work for an organization recognized by others as doing the most good. You should seek validation from your volunteers and ask them why they serve. You probably will get universal answers but will love hearing the same song over and over again. The life blood of any nonprofit is the unsung group of volunteers that you can never afford to pay. If you recruit well, the orientation, training and retention will be very positive. In life, isn’t it really about the deposits you make? It should always be better to give than to receive. That feeling is what makes the nonprofit universe so special. God bless our volunteers and thank all of you who give service before self.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.