By Stacy Hicks
Tall, strong, hairy wanderer of the woods that sometimes frightens small children is seeking a volunteer opportunity with your organization. How would you respond to this inquiry?
- Ignore and delete the message, they are obviously yanking our chain
- Respond with “Thank you for your interest but we have no volunteer opportunities matching your skills and interests” and then hide
- Respond with “Great! We need all the volunteers we can get! We are desperate.” Then wonder why you are so desperate.
- Respond with “Thank you for your interest in our organization, tell me more about you and what you are hoping to contribute?” Then move on the next application because you have so many to get through.
At a recent conference, the speaker shared this tidbit with a room full of volunteer professionals (yes they exist and are not a myth), “We are recruiting 2017 volunteers using 1980’s practices”. This has stuck with me because it is so true! Many organizations continue to use antiquated recruiting and retention methods, odd myths, lack of research and measurable goals, low pay and unsupported professional development opportunities to grow and support their volunteer programs.
Let’s talk about this myth, volunteers are free. Independent Sector estimates the National Value of Volunteer Time to be $24.14 per hour with Washington State leading the west coast at $30.04 per hour. Which means that one volunteer who serves 96 hours in a year just gave $2,883.84 to your organization. Times this by 20 or 100 and the numbers are astounding. Sharing those numbers on annual reports along with stories from volunteers about the impact on themselves, on the organization and the community at large are essential in telling the story that volunteers are not free.
You would not hire someone without a position description, an application and/or an interview to see if they are a good fit for your organization, so why wouldn’t you follow the same process for your volunteers. As much as an interview is for learning about the skills and experiences of an individual, it is also a chance for the person to interview your organization as well. Instead of saying what you have available, ask what they are interested in. You never know what, and who, you will find!
Your development department is all about building relationships, which is the business everyone in your organization is involved with. Understanding trends in giving is essential to fundraising plans, targeted marketing campaigns are essential in bringing in new clients and patrons. Why would you consider building a volunteer program without a plan? Does the spaghetti method work, throw it against the wall, see what sticks. Knowing the demographics and interests of the community you serve is important to knowing who your volunteers are. Figure out your goals, strategies, outcomes as it pertains to your organization’s needs, evaluate and repeat yearly.
Volunteers are not just volunteers. They are skilled, passionate, advocates for your organization. Take away the myths and you will see the heart of the individuals. Even Sasquatch's.
Oh, and the answer is D!
Stacy Hicks has been a Volunteer Coordinator for numerous organizations over the past 14 years and is currently located at Tacoma Art Museum. She also serves her community through a variety of arts boards.
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