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April 2024
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Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers

By Leigh Ann Macklin

“Cartoon people with one person pulling up another

For over 20 years, I’ve done volunteering and volunteer management. I was president of Volunteer Loudoun (in Virginia), managed volunteers at political campaign offices, and was an Area Director for Toastmasters, for which I recruited volunteers to help make speech contests possible.

The pandemic has caused new challenges for those who rely on volunteers. Here are three guidelines to keep in mind while developing your volunteer recruitment and retention plan.

1Know what’s involved.

When asking people to volunteer, be honest about the time commitment. Before I began organizing Toastmasters contests, I did not realize how much the competitions relied on volunteers. Just know that if you receive an email asking you to be a ballot counter, judge, or timer for the contest—they need you. Our contests were able to run only because of our volunteers.

2Know what’s in it for the volunteer.

Is your potential volunteer looking for a productive way to spend their time? Do they want to develop a new skill? Are they achievement-oriented?

When I was asked to be an Area Director, it was through a group email addressed to over 20 people. Although I was flattered, it was relatively easy to say no to this generalized request. After the Division Director reached out to me personally and answered my questions about the duties and time commitment, I accepted the opportunity. It’s much easier to say yes to a well-crafted personal request. Additionally, I thought the volunteer work would make me a better candidate in a job search.

3Make the match!

Know the volunteer’s strengths and work style. Placing them with the right opportunity is imperative, but it may not happen on the first try. If someone’s goal is to make friends after a recent move and you stick them in the back office licking envelopes, it’s not going to work. Know your needs, know your volunteer’s skill set, and make the proper connection with the appropriate opportunity.

One last tip: Find out how your volunteer would like to be recognized. It’s the little things that build relationships, and oftentimes it’s a handwritten, heartfelt thank you note that means the most!

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