Volunteers Are Shrinking, How To Keep Your Most Important Resource

At least 80% of nonprofits in America rely on volunteers for their work force. In fact, most nonprofits would not exist if not for the volunteers that serve them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report providing some startling numbers:

62.6 million people volunteered in 2013

1.1% decline in overall volunteerism

Volunteerism is at its lowest point since 2002

As a nonprofit organization, these are statistics we do not want to see. There is fierce competition, more so than ever, for our volunteer’s time. In this same report, the median annual hours of volunteering for both men and women are 50. This equates to less than an hour a week of time, which begs the question, “how much time will we receive in our nonprofit organization?” It is time to throw out the archaic concept of the volunteer job description and rename it the Volunteer Experience Opportunity. We have found that building an experience rather than “giving a job” is 50% more effective in recruiting new volunteers and retaining the ones you have. In building your Volunteer Experience Opportunity, these are the top ten questions you will want to answer:

  1. Volunteer position to be filled (what will this volunteer do for my nonprofit organization?)
  2. Date to be filled (when do we need this person on board?)
  3. Position description (detail the position as much as possible)
  4. What volunteer need will it fulfill (specifically, how will this appeal to what a volunteer is seeking in fulfilling their volunteering need)?
  5. How can this position build more friendships (if this volunteer is successful, how will it build relationships/friendships in the organization)?
  6. How does it fulfill an individuals need to make a commitment (what is rewarding about this commitment to make it a commitment)?
  7. How will this position make an impact in the chapter, in the profession, etc. (as a volunteer, how will he or she make an impact. Very important to provide this as it is a major reason to volunteer)?
  8. What type of time commitment is this position (is this a long-term commitment on a committee or is it a short-term, just-in-time volunteering position with a fixed length of time and deliverables)?
  9. If yes, what is the deliverable at the end of the project that someone can be proud of?
  10. How will the position be recognized?

How many times do we ask our volunteers what they want to get out of their experience? By answering these 10 questions, your organization will go beyond just giving a volunteer a job. It will help to define a rewarding experience that will lead to a long-term relationship. Appeal to their core needs and they will stay loyal to your organization for many years to come.