Help your volunteer group to succeed

Flowing Assiniboine River looking for a new day
Find the source where volunteer energy first flowed

Volunteer groups, especially membership or organized volunteer groups within non-profit organizations often face a critical do or die decision while struggling with some of these issues:

• Dwindling membership – Does this mean we have outlived our usefulness?
• Reduced fundraising revenues – Will this be a downward spiral?
• Aging members – How do we attract new members and create a way for aging members to remain gracefully?
• Programs – Why are our programs attracting less interest and participants?
Work now performed by paid staff– Are we not be trusted to do this fulfill this role?

How can you turn an organization around that faces these struggles? I believe you must first go to the core where the energy first flowed.

I believe you must first go to the core where the energy first flowed.

Most non-profits could not exist without the involvement of volunteers.
The organization’s strength and credibility come from increasing and retaining volunteers and their role as advocates for the organization. Frequently groups believe they have no other recourse than to call it quits.

Here is a way to overcome this problem:
Start by gathering the group to answer the question:

Why did you join the organization in the first place?

Let everyone give their reason or explanation, list them on a chart for all to see. This discussion will energize the group.

Then remind people what volunteers bring to an organization

Credibility. Volunteers have a credibility that paid staff or consultants could never have. Volunteers can freely talk about the group and promote it with others. Volunteer stories are more believable to outsiders. Volunteer involvement demonstrates that the organization is worthy of support. (An engaged volunteer group is a good barometer of the health of an organization.)
It’s a personal choice. Volunteering is not a job; rather it is a personal decision, one that includes a healthy dose of self-interest and desire to help an organization succeed.
Public Relations/Ambassadors. The organization will always need to engage a wider group of supporters the involvement of volunteers essential. Volunteers have the potential to stimulate substantial support of programs and activities in the community.
Leadership. Volunteers lead the way. Volunteers create new services and programs and address unmet needs. They back off when it is successful enough to require full-time help. Volunteers were the first source of labour in the organization and created many of the paid positions.

To overcome these struggles, make plans to address the recruitment and retention of new members. Also, learn the hundreds of ways the group can be energized through fundraising. That’s in the next blog.

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