You need volunteers, your organization needs volunteers, and without them you will not succeed. In short, you need people to willingly give their time freely so that your organization can financially support your vision, calling, and purpose. You need and rely upon these special people called volunteers.
I am paid to manage these special people as the current organization I work for relies upon 150 volunteers to accomplish it's tasks. Understanding volunteers is a virtue of mine as I also serve in the trenches with volunteers as a volunteer for a number of nonprofits.
From volunteering as a Fire/EMS chaplain to fundraiser with Muscular Dystrophy's Fill the Boot, my life is that of a volunteer. My passion for providing clean drinking water for peoples around the world and curing Polio is the reason for my thirty year involvement with Rotary International.
Here's what I've learned about getting the right volunteers to do the job.
1. Know what you need - say what you need. No joke! Nebulous think-tank ideas lacking development and structure can prove counterproductive. Big picture ideas are a great place to start, but volunteers need to know what your organization actually needs, why they as volunteers are needed, and what is expected from them. Repeatedly after listening to a spokesperson's request for volunteers I've thought, "That wasn't clear at all."
2. Where's the Passion? After listening to a representative of a nonprofit give a pitch for volunteers I wondered, "Does he care about this cause?" Later after most everyone left the presenter said to a friend, "I could really care less about this anyways." And, that was obvious to myself and many potential volunteers present that evening!
Having listened to many volunteer coordinators, their presentations often feel like a lecture or information sharing time. If you are not passionate about the cause you are asking others to be passionate about the bottom line is this, people will not volunteer for something you do not believe in or care about yourself.
3. Tell the story! After attending a fundraiser for a nonprofit seeking to cure Muscular Dystrophy, I asked the presenter, "Are there any children benefiting from your efforts?" Immediately he told an amazing beautiful story of a young child. My reply, "Thanks so much for that great story! Please share it with us next time in such splendid detail. Perhaps, you will capture more participation next time. Give it a shot!"
We raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for our Orphan Care Center in South Africa by telling stories of those orphan children. Story telling speaks to the heart, provokes thought, and captures commitment!
More about Recruiting Volunteers in Part Two:
Don has worked with hundreds of volunteers during his thirty plus year career in Africa and the United States.