Thinking Differently About Volunteering

There's an interesting post (and the beginning of a conversation) going on over at the Acronym blog, focusing on volunteer recruitment and diversity.

Here was the comment I posted.  I encourage you to check out the entire post and join the conversation.

I think we need to reframe the way many organizations currently view volunteers. They see it as something that only “some people” may do. But as The Decision to Volunteer noted, many members say they are volunteering in ways beyond how the board often defines volunteer involvement (positions, formal service, etc.).

What if we began to think of volunteering as something everyone should do because it is one of the most significant ways to build a strong professional network, to connect more to the professional community in general, and to receive more value from being a member?

That’s how most highly engaged volunteers would describe their experience: you get more when you give more.

If we start with this premise: everyone will want to (or should want to) volunteer, we would enact a very different method of invitation and engagement:
  • The membership application would solicit your volunteer interests and the talents and time you have available to contribute. 
  • You’d be contacted personally within a set time (say 5 business days) to extend an invitation to contribute. 
  • We’d look for more real-time micro-volunteering opportunities during major events like annual meetings. 
In short, we would organize the enterprise for 100% volunteering.

Would we achieve it? Probably not. But in creating the system to enable and support it, we would most likely diversify the number and perspectives of people volunteering and the ways in which they contribute.

And we could also more intentionally engage non-members in connecting with and contributing to the community in limited, ad hoc, volunteer responsibilities as a means of diversifying our membership recruitment efforts and results. “Come initially to contribute to an issue you care about. Then join and stay for the community and content."

If we want to achieve radically different results, then we need to start with radically different premises and assumptions.