Develop a Volunteer Corps That’s Built to Last

Association volunteers are more engaged and fulfilled when they’re growing with the organization, not just filling chairs. One model proposes how staff can help them do that.
Photograph of a woman smiling and making the heart symbol with her hands

Guest Post: Mark Athitakis, Associations Now

 

If you devote any amount of time to the care and feeding of volunteer leaders, eventually you’re going to confront a matrix. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good practice for associations to determine which skills it needs from potential volunteers and to codify those needs in a way that’s clear and visible.

But matrices, if not managed well, can turn people into widgets. An association may simplistically plug people into slots to fill immediate needs, when what it needs are people willing to make long-term commitments. And that requires a better understanding of your volunteer pool. “Associations usually ask what a volunteer wants to do but not why they want to do it,” Sarah Garrity recently wrote as part of a fine four-part series at Billhighway on leading volunteers.

The series focuses on a volunteer model developed by Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE, president of Mariner Management, and Kristine Metter, CAE, founder of Crystal Lake Partners. Like most matrices, their model is built on competencies that the association needs for different roles at the organization, from first-time chapter volunteer to board member. But it’s constructed from the assumption that volunteers want an ongoing relationship with the association, building competencies in one area before moving up to the next. Hoffman and Metter have developed a toolkit (PDF) laying out the steps.

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