As long as I’ve worked in volunteering, two of the most popular times to recruit volunteers have been the start of the new calendar year and the start of the new academic year.
In January this is often motivated by people’s post-Christmas guilt, while September is a time for people to try new things as a result of change in their lives: students who are now away at university, parents who no longer have school runs to do, young people entering a new course of study etc…
Sadly some organisations still complain that people don’t want to volunteer these days. They blame the cynical, selfish times they think we live in. I disagree with them. I think people do want to volunteer – they just don’t want to do what those organisations are offering. People don’t want to do boring, dreary, make-work, designed to vaguely assist paid staff so they don’t feel threatened by volunteers. People want enjoyable, meaningful, impactful things to do that fit around the demands of the busy lives they lead.
So here are three tips to consider over the summer break that might just make volunteering with your organisation a more attractive proposition:
Give great customer service
Do you remember the days when, if you bought something by mail order, you usually had to wait 28 days for delivery? In just a few short years that expectation has been replaced. Now we’re surprised, frustrated, even annoyed if next day delivery isn’t an option.
Not long ago I encountered an organisation that complained that it was unrealistic to expect them to get back to potential volunteers within three weeks of their initial inquiry. Three weeks!
We live in an instant society where we expect quick responses. To make ourselves attractive we have to acknowledge that people’s expectations are high and we need to try to meet them – being a charity or voluntary group is no excuse.
Consider having a team of volunteers whose role it is to help respond quickly to enquiries from potential volunteers, even if it is just to give them a clear idea of how long a proper response will take.
We live in an increasingly socially isolated world, which is perhaps why people increasingly look for volunteering roles that provide the opportunity to volunteer with friends and family, to meet new people, or even make new business contacts.
Look at your organisation and opportunities. What could you do to provide a group or family with a chance to volunteer together? Give it a go and see who else you can attract.
Provide enjoyable volunteering
Volunteering isn’t paid work. People mainly volunteer in their leisure time and with the seemingly unrelenting pressures of life, we all want to spend our increasingly precious leisure time enjoying ourselves.
Making volunteering enjoyable is critical if you want to attract and keep volunteers. You see, we’re not really competing with other organisations for volunteers. We’re competing with all the leisure activities that people could spend their spare time doing – going to the cinema, having a meal with friends, watching a sports event etc…
So make your volunteering rewarding and enjoyable. Really understand what drives your potential volunteers, their passions and interests. Or, in the words of that famous kids TV show from my youth, they’ll go and do something less boring instead.