Lunchtime Links: How to Get Volunteers (And How to Keep Them)

Make sure your volunteer programs have impact. Also: Encourage leadership within your ranks.

Every association relies on the work of volunteers. But there’s a difference between getting people excited about a cause and keeping them committed for the long haul. How to do both, and more, in today’s Lunchtime Links:

Volunteer magnet: There’s nothing like the first few days of a volunteer program when the energy is up and you’ve got people lined up around the block to help. But maintaining that enthusiasm for the duration is tough. People drop out. Other commitments get in the way. Writing for Event Garde with Aaron Wolowiec, public relations professional Kristen Parker discusses ways to keep your volunteer engine humming. “Like zombies, committee members engage in busy work instead of generating new ideas to further the mission of the organization,” she writes, citing advice from Elizabeth Engel, CEO of Spark Consulting. These ruts can be especially detrimental in attempts to recruit and retain younger volunteers. Millennials and Gen Xers are used to making decisions quickly, and it’s not uncommon for them to grow impatient or frustrated, she says. Your volunteer programs have to have impact. “That’s the cake,” Engel tells Parker. “Recognition, rewards, honors and all that jazz are nice, but they’re the icing.” You’ve got to “[g]et the cake right first.” How does your organization recruit and retain volunteers?

Employee leadership program: Every organization needs a great leader. You’ve heard and read as much a million times by now. But leadership isn’t a trait exclusive to the C-suite. As author Peter Economy writes for, the best and most successful organizations encourage employees at every level to take a leadership role. It starts with teamwork. “Bust silo thinking by building cross-functional teams that cut across departmental boundaries to take full advantage of the ideas and expertise of all of your people,” writes Economy. Encourage your employees to think and act like leaders at every turn. Also, don’t be afraid to share information about your organization with employees and encourage them to make decisions on their own. Be passionate and create clear roles and expectations under which employees can grow and thrive. Want more ideas for how to encourage leadership within your organization? Check out Economy’s full list.

Stop herding sheep: Sheep are notoriously unexceptional thinkers. As a herd or a flock, they tend to retreat from problems instead of finding ways around them, writes Forbes contributor Panos Mourdoukoutas. They stick together. Walking in circles is not uncommon. That’s good news—if you’re a sheepherder. But it’s no way to run an organization. So how can you keep your organization on its toes? For starters, Mourdoukoutas suggests hiring “a heretic or two”—someone from the outside who isn’t afraid to speak out against the flock. “Heretics challenge the status quo, see things others cannot see, and introduce new concepts and ideas that take the organization out of the box,” writes Mourdoukoutas.

What does your organization do to stay exceptional? Tell us in the comments.


Corey Murray

By Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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