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Building Your Community Volunteer Resources
By: Brenda Robinson
Everybody seems to be asking, “Why won't they get engaged?”
Maybe the real question is, “What could we do to get them engaged?”
Perhaps we could move our focus away from the problem and onto the solution. That, in itself, may be part of the answer. People in general are much more likely to engage in activities that are leading to a solution then activities that are based in the problem.
What can we do to engage more and new volunteers in our communities?
We can begin by asking what is it that motivates busy people in a fast-paced world to volunteer.
People tell us that they want to do volunteer work that is meaningful. The tasks themselves may be routine or fundamental, however, the outcome needs to be important and meaningful. Volunteers are asking what difference this event or activity will make? Does it have social value? Is it an opportunity to build skill or confidence? Is there a consequence or negative outcome if the event no longer runs in our community? Does it benefit a group of people in the short term and the long term? Will this activity facilitate positive change?
People are also asking who else volunteers. There is a renewed appreciation for the social engagement that comes with volunteering. Indeed, some volunteers prefer to come as a group or as a team to volunteer for an event or activity period there may even be friendly competition between groups for the quality and quantity of their volunteer work. This could be encouraged and supported with great results.
Groups or teams tend to motivate each other and participate in both more ways and in better ways. Being accountable to your team goes a long way to ensuring timely engagement and attendance. Peer pressure works in many ways and can help to motivate a team of volunteers.
There are “long time” volunteers and “just in time” volunteers. We need both. Sometimes the “just in time” volunteer is turned off by the expectation that they must be there for a long time. We need to find project work, short term tasks, one-time only tasks and even time limited tasks to appeal to these new and different volunteers. Big tasks that can be broken down into small pieces will attract the busy volunteer who wants to help and is not able to commit to the long term. At the same time, we must appreciate and engage our “long serving, always there” volunteer for the work they do. It is less about what is right or wrong, correct or incorrect and more about what works for our community. Sometimes people don't want to work alone. Having a co-president or a co-treasurer might encourage people to take on the responsibility. That would also relieve the pressure of “having to be there all the time.” it also provides great opportunities for mentoring, coaching, training and developing people for key positions. Strategic partnerships work well when attendance and quorum are at risk.
Many volunteers are motivated by feedback and encouragement. Never wait for the once a year volunteer appreciation to appreciate your volunteers. Provide immediate feedback. Praise in public, criticize in private. Make a point of recognise Ng and affirming any and all volunteer participation. Words are the most important tool we have for expressing our attitude of gratitude.
Celebrate creativity by encouraging new ideas, suggestions and different approaches. Ask the question often:
“What do you think?”
Invite discussion and encourage people to contribute their ideas.
Motivation is described as, “getting the right people to do the right things, in the right way, at the right time because that is what they want to do.” Get to know your volunteers and the strengths that they have to share. Allow people to bring their best and you will get the best results. Focus on their strengths, build on their preferences and get the best from the most.
These strategies will help you engage more people in new and better ways. Be open and ready to change with the changing volunteers.