Every association struggles with identifying and recruiting volunteers, then putting them to work on meaningful tasks.

To improve how you seek out volunteers, look at it from their perspective: What do potential volunteers want? What will encourage them to lend their skills to your association?

Each potential volunteer is unique and should be treated as such, but most share common goals. When members commit time and resources to your association, their individual motivations can be divided into four main categories:

1. ACCOMPLISHMENT

Your volunteers want to participate in work that advances the goals and objectives of your association. They don’t want to waste time on “make work” projects, or participate in a committee that only fulfills an internally political purpose, nor do volunteers want to waste time on a “permanent” committee that never accomplishes anything but exists in perpetuity.

2. CAREER ENHANCEMENT

Your volunteers want to accomplish meaningful work for your association, put that experience on their resume and use it to enhance their careers. The meaningful volunteer experience helps them in pursuing advanced leadership opportunities at your association and others. People can serve their association and their personal ambitions at the same time. Tap into the ambitions of your volunteers for the betterment of your association.

3. A FULFILLING EXPERIENCE

When helping out your association, volunteers want to learn something, be a part of a pleasant atmosphere and process, and have a focused time commitment. They don’t want to get dragged into negative association politics and they don’t want to have association staff commandeer committees for their own purposes. Keep it educational, pleasant, focused and fun!

4. OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE

Your volunteers want the opportunity to serve their association and the profession, industry or cause it represents. This selfless contribution is a wonderful and unique feature of associations. The members, alongside the staff, make up the workforce of the association. Respect the dedication of your volunteers.

Make sure your recruitment process is about the volunteers, rather than solely about your association, and you will increase the quantity and quality of members stepping forward to help out.

President at Barnes Association Consultants

John Barnes is president of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Services include strategic planning, board development and work management, and governance review and improvements. Before launching Barnes Association Consultants, John was CEO at the American Physical Therapy Association.  John worked closely with the APTA Board and Directors and was responsible for the management of the association. Previous to serving as CEO at APTA, John worked at the American Academy of Dermatology as their Deputy Executive Director. John was a leader in all aspects of managing the organization. John has extensive public policy experience through his years serving on Capitol Hill.  John was Chief of Staff to Congressman Greg Ganske of Iowa, where he managed and directed congressional offices in Washington and Iowa. He also served as Special Assistant for Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

John is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, Association Forum, BoardSource and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

John Barnes is president of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Services include strategic planning, board development and work management, and governance review and improvements. Before launching Barnes Association Consultants, John was CEO at the American Physical Therapy Association.  John worked closely with the APTA Board and Directors and was responsible for the management of the association. Previous to serving as CEO at APTA, John worked at the American Academy of Dermatology as their Deputy Executive Director. John was a leader in all aspects of managing the organization. John has extensive public policy experience through his years serving on Capitol Hill.  John was Chief of Staff to Congressman Greg Ganske of Iowa, where he managed and directed congressional offices in Washington and Iowa. He also served as Special Assistant for Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. John is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, Association Forum, BoardSource and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

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