Heather Comstock Connects

Helping nonprofits and other volunteer organizations develop strong relationships and a clear voice in the community.

Spring Recruitment Season – Some Advice to Organization Staff

Ahh… spring has spring and the school year is winding to a close. Like many other little volunteer-based organizations in the area, some of the ones I volunteer with are scrambling to complete our obligations before time runs out.

The thing is, our group is a sub-group of a larger national organization and right now, I am not feeling love for the larger organization. I feel abandoned and unsupported. Yes, I know resources are there for me, but I have to GO TO them rather than having the resources come TO ME. That makes a big difference in the throes of working volunteer tasks into my other responsibilities.

Do remember that these are VOLUNTEERS! While you may spend every day immersed in this stuff, these folks have other responsibilities and their lives are not governed by your organization’s seasonal rhythms the same way as staff. They also don’t have a paycheck hanging in the balance. If you dump too much on them, they will walk away. Not only will you have to find a replacement, you lose the information the person was holding, and you’ve lost a valuable ambassador in the community.

Potential Volunteers (and Members) can Sense Desperation and Disorganization a Mile Away – if your volunteers aren’t empowered and supported, the ability to find replacements is impossible. Actively supporting your existing volunteers makes for an active, engaged, and well-organized unit which will attract volunteers. Potential volunteers know that cleaning up messes takes extra time and commitment.

Do send out reminder emails that are interesting, engaging, and most of all SHORT – include links to more info on your site. “Hey, its February – never too early to start thinking about your elections. Who is rocking your nominating committee?” “March is time to start reviewing your by-laws and getting your General Membership meeting notices out”. Its not enough to just include a perpetual calendar in your printed handbooks. Take a few minutes to give people a head’s up. Don’t rely on your “chain of command” or one method.

Harness social media – create easy and interactive ways to support your volunteers and get your information in their hands. Publishing and large hard copy handbook and telling people, “here, read this!” isn’t effective. Create a You Tube channel of training videos or post webcasts of trainings on your website (and NOT hidden in the members only section either!) Not everyone can show up at physical trainings and sometimes people need refreshers. Create a FAQs section so people can find that one quick reference they need at 10 on a Friday night. Facebook and Twitter updates can also alert local volunteers of upcoming time lines and available resources.

Make Plug and Play materials available – such as flyers and fill in the blank forms. Don’t make the access difficult either. Do membership flyers and blank forms really need to be hidden behind “members only” sections of the site? The only stuff that should be inaccessible should be anything that could compromise privacy and safety such as addresses or personal information. Trust me, your blank by-laws forms do NOT fall in this category.

Provide Backup Storage – this ensures that information and materials do get moved between boards. The number one thing I used to hear is “We can’t find the previous (President, Secretary, Treasurer) and we have no copies of the (minutes, bank records, organizing paperwork). If you store it for them, not only do you have it, you can make it available to the next group. Plus, it can serve as a basis for inter-group networking and sharing of best practices.

What’s the impact of putting these structures into place?

  • Easier to recruit new board members and volunteers
  • Better membership recruitment and retention rates
  • Your volunteers feel loved and appreciated in a way that an annual volunteer banquet and another certificate can’t accomplish

Do you have any additional advice either from the staff or the volunteer side?

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