I attended a great workshop on volunteering given by Jacqui Baxter from RSVP at a series through TriCounty Community Network Pottstown. I learned so much! As many organizations in our region rely heavily on our friendly helpers, I learned there are five key elements to understanding volunteering known as the “Five M’s.”
1. Motivation: There are many reasons and multiple interests that volunteers are looking for in offering to spend their own unpaid time volunteering, so it is important to understand what those reasons are in each individual you contact in the first encounter. Here are some made up examples to illustrate this point:
- Have they just retired, have time on their hands, and want to fill all those empty days?
- Was someone extraordinarily kind during a rough patch at some point and now they are in a position to be able to give back?
- Do they have a special skill set that they want to teach to others?
As you can see, there are many motivations and knowing what they are is the first step to establishing the right kind of connection.
2. Match: OK, so now you have enlisted your army of volunteers. However, it is much easier to engage than to retain them. Key to retaining volunteers is finding the right job for the person:
- Skill set IT? Give them a computer and data job
- Skill set is relating well to people? Match them up with an interactive position.
- Strong and willing to tote and lift? Let ‘em at it!
- Need a driver? Some people love to drive.
- Great with kids? (That would not be me – ask my daughter!). Get their clearances and be grateful for they are the magic people!
- Eager and willing to do anything? Use them to fill the gaps you need filled.
- Know various languages? May fill one of your real needs.
It is worth the time and effort up front to make sure there is a good fit or the volunteer will not last long – they do not have to be doing this, and they need to be doing something that fulfills them (see Motivation).
3. Management: Volunteers are not free. Often they are self-determining and have in mind what and how they intend to do things. Like paid employees, they need to be managed despite what they care to do. If they agreed to fill a role, there is accountability and responsibility. They must follow organization rules like all paid employees and although it is sad, sometimes volunteers must be let go. These expectations must be clearly stated from the outset.
4. Metrics/ Measurements = Deliverables: For many reasons, data collection is important:
- Demonstration of productivity and results. Well – worth time and effort to track
- Gives staff and volunteers something they can see that they have achieved and be proud of. They are part of something and are contributing.
- Can attract more volunteers.
- Can attract funders.
- Can list volunteer work and hours as an in-kind value that is measurable.
- Examples: The number of pounds of food delivered, the number of people served, etc.
5. Meaning: Investment and work has already gone in but now it all has meaning and it is important to use all the above to help spread your message in press releases, annual reports, on social media, internally, etc. Get the word about your good works! All good for public relations and general feel-good morale for staff retention and motivation. It is all a big positive cycle that benefits your organization!