Spokes would like to thank Rachel Cementina, Spokes faculty and SLO County YMCA Director of Membership and Marketing for guest-writing this article.
Several years ago, a young man contacted our office seeking a last-minute volunteer opportunity. John was required to complete 15 hours before the semester ended. We thought the Cal Poly student would do well at a computer project and quickly set him on his task.
Upon completion of the hours, he was asked how he felt about the experience. John answered, “It was the most boring work ever.” And that was the last we saw of him.
We can learn a lot from our experience with John and use it to keep volunteers coming back in the future:
• John said yes to the hours even before we told him about the project.
Make sure volunteers know in advance what they are signing up for by setting expectations. This means outlining a position description, including the purpose, duties, and skills that are required of the volunteer. A great place to start is at volunteer recruitment – make sure your position descriptions are complete at VolunteerSLO.org!
• We didn’t know how John was motivated.
Besides having appropriate training to get the assigned work done, volunteers also need the motivation. Was John motivated by the achievement of the project, satisfaction of giving back to an organization he was passionate about, or recognition of his hard work and time? On the surface, he may have been motivated by the proof that he completed the volunteer hours, but had we gotten to know him, we likely would have found that he also wanted to feel good about the work he was doing.
• John didn’t understand why his job mattered.
Even though we asked John to complete what he found to be a menial task, he may have found it more fulfilling to know why it mattered. If volunteers understand how their support leads to the greater mission of the organization, they have a better volunteer experience. Let each volunteer know how their efforts are making a difference and how their work contributes to the bigger picture.
When a volunteer knows what they are going to be doing in advance, are appreciated for their work, and can connect it to the “why,” it creates a quality volunteer experience. For more additional resources on Volunteer Retention, check out Energize Inc or chat with your friends at Spokes at (805) 547-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org