While listening to responses from prospective volunteers, you have probably heard all the excuses under the sun. But have you really heard these people? In many cases, individuals are telling you that they can’t envision where they fit in. Perhaps this relates to their interests and passions. Maybe their current schedule or life pressures are clouding their vision and they can’t clearly see a fit for themselves in your organization. Your job is to help them understand how they can fit. If they get one foot in the door, it is much easier for them to enter the rest of the way through the door at a later date – either when life circumstances change, or when they begin to understand their fit.
Pull out a copy of your staffing chart – the document where you record who is volunteering where. What are the positions for which you are still seeking volunteers? We all run the risk of viewing our organization through the lens of “how it’s always been.” As you evaluate your need for volunteers and strive to connect with volunteers of all types, consider these things:
Look carefully at the positions that are still unfilled. Does this task have to be done in one particular way? Or at a particular time? Can it be combined with another job description? Are you asking the right type of people?
A couple years ago, the volunteer teaching team in one classroom consisted of 3 weekly volunteers and another couple volunteers that rotated through the month. By the end of the term of commitment, Team Member 1 wanted to move to volunteer with a different age group for family reasons, Team Member 2 had major surgery and was not able to return, and when asked to renew his commitment for another term, Team Member 3 initially declined. The team he had been part of for several years had dissolved, and he had no desire to start fitting in with a new group of volunteers.
Listen carefully to the folks who are requesting to volunteer and those that are declining your invitation to join the team. Is there a recurring theme among the interests or passions of either set of people? Who are the individuals that are rejecting your pleas for more volunteers?
As I listened to Team Member 3, I was told straight up – “I still love children….” Through this statement, I knew that his interest was still strong in the area where he previously volunteered. There wasn’t another area that he wanted to serve in more than the current area. Moreover, he was a really good and faithful volunteer – one that I really did not want to lose.
The twenty-first century is moving right along at warp speed. What are you hearing from people regarding their current schedules and pressures in life? Is your organization keeping up with changes in society and your immediate culture?
Armed with a bit of information about Team Member 3 – and most importantly, with a relationship of good rapport as a supervisor over his team – it was easy to see that he was moving into a new stage of life. Some of his Sunday schedule was changing as his children were moving out of one division into programming for older children. His wife was moving to serve in a different area (a possible life pressure). If he also really wanted to move to a different area, I wanted to let him. But I also wanted to capitalize and put his passions and gifts to work.
The question was, “How?”
For the answer, come back for Part 2.