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The Secret to Successful Member Engagement: Volunteerism

volunteerism for membership organizations

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” – Author Unknown.

Volunteerism: Return for Engagement

Let’s just acknowledge up front that the most engaged members in any type of association or nonprofit are our volunteers. I would add that we used to view our volunteers as extensions of our staff—people we could rely on to take on an entire project and get it done.

Alas, doctor no longer. One secret to successful membership engagement, then, is understanding the revolution in volunteerism, driven in part by Millennials’ and Gen Xers’ preferences and, in part, by the response to fluctuating job and economic opportunities.

In other words, if you want to double down on engagement, you need also to look at how to engage more members in volunteering by first getting a handle on what volunteering means to your membership in the new era of generational segmentation.

What Has Changed With Volunteerism?

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. – Gandhi

The existential, human reasons for volunteering have not altered one bit. And, your members and donors are no different.

  1. Members still want to volunteer to feel helpful.

  2. Members do want to give back or “pay it forward.”

  3. Member do want to use the experience to learn someone or something new.

Very few would argue that volunteer involvement strengthens communities, right? This is because volunteer involvement mutually benefits both the volunteer and the organization. And, volunteer involvement is based on relationships. It is reciprocal because it creates opportunities for voluntary organizations to accomplish goals by engaging and involving volunteers.

You tell me and I forget. You teach me and I remember. You involve me and I learn. – Ben Franklin

Association Trends reports three new trends driving the new volunteerism:

  1. Micro volunteering: In the same way as the landscape of fundraising has changed—think Bernie Sanders campaign’s $27 individual gifts adding up to millions—the universe of volunteerism has shifted to acknowledging that while a tiny handful of dedicated volunteers can make a difference, a great number of volunteers who each do what they can in a coordinated way has a much more significant impact.

Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. – Author Unknown

  1. Millennials’ demand for variety. How does that affect their volunteering? They may want to vary their volunteer time as well as the tasks they agree to take on. Maybe they will volunteer five hours a week in summer only, or once a month in winter. Perhaps they agree to work on one event a year or mentor five new members a year.

This Huffington Post article details how to approach Gen Xers and Boomers online to attract them as volunteers.

If you have the right software to segment your membership and you have taken the steps to discover your members’ preferences, your software also should support your shift to creating a new framework for volunteerism in your Association or nonprofit.

  1. The volunteer process must be personalized: As Andy Steggles, President, Higher Logic,  a leader in cloud-based community platforms writes in Association Trends, “Members want to personalize their volunteer journeys…. A myriad of new tech tools, from better data management to automation, can help you nudge members towards the right volunteer opportunities – they’re no longer grasping around in the dark for a task or simply becoming unengaged.”

The Volunteer-Member-Donor Link

Reviewing and revising your approach on volunteers has another benefit for your Association or nonprofit—a financial benefit. Donors often are inspired to make a gift or increase a gift when they view your organization as one which thrives on volunteer participation. It appears that the enthusiasm of volunteers is contagious. Participation equals a return on engagement.

That leads to one more key point: you cannot thank your volunteers—or your donors—too often. Find as many ways as you can to help them feel appreciated. This will spark more of your volunteers to recommend your organization to others too.

Software for Volunteer Management

Does volunteer management software exist? Yes it does!

In my opinion, the backbone of a nonprofits shift to working with the new volunteerism effectively is your database software and community management software too. These two systems together could be the essential must have tools in your organizations success moving members along their volunteer commitment journey.

Until next time keep SmartThoughts in mind.

volunteerism in associations


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