If your club does not have enough volunteer help to meet its needs, your Board of Directors may be to blame. It’s the Board’s job to provide the leadership and policy-making to resolve the problem.
True, a Board generally doesn’t have any power to force members of a club to volunteer. A Board can request, negotiate, cajole and beg for volunteers but usually only an employer or government has any real power to insist. By definition, the word volunteer implies a willingness to freely donate time and work. So what can a Board do for a club that’s not meeting its needs for volunteer help?
One answer is change the club’s culture. The Board is responsible for establishing and maintaining the cultural characteristics of their club, i.e. its practices, its customs and its traditions. If a club’s success depends on volunteers, it is imperative that volunteerism be established and firmly supported by the Board as part of the club’s culture.
How? Let’s consider a simple four-step plan to promote volunteerism in a club where volunteerism is deemed inadequate by its Board:
Step One — The Board calls a meeting of the club’s Directors and Committee Chairs and announces that this meeting is the first step of four that will be taken to promote volunteerism in the club. The meeting’s purpose is two-fold. First, to explain these steps and, second, to have an open discussion on working with volunteers to be certain that all present understand and respect the dynamics of working with volunteers. For example, Directors and Chairs must support their volunteers, thank their volunteers, praise their efforts, recognize them publicly. They must never take their volunteers for granted. They must learn to listen to what their volunteers have to say — not just brush aside their suggestions. They must always remember that just one belittling comment can do irreparable damage to a member’s willingness to volunteer.
Step Two — At a general meeting of the membership, the Board reminds (or states as a new policy) that as a volunteer organization, all existing members are now “expected” to volunteer. Volunteer jobs will henceforth be posted on the club bulletin board for volunteers to sign up. Each upcoming event will be posted showing each job that requires a volunteer with space for members to write in their names. Brief job descriptions will also be posted so members can clearly understand the scope of each job. (If your club rents facilities, purchase a portable bulletin board or, if that doesn’t work, consider an electronic solution.) All volunteer jobs should provide names, phone numbers and email addresses of whom to phone if a member has any questions.
Step Three — All potential new members should be informed that the club depends on volunteers and as a new member they will be expected to volunteer, too, once they have completed their orientation period. This orientation period lets a new member settle in and should be set by each club depending on the type of club, new skills that have to be learned, etc. Most orientation periods range from several weeks to several months or even a year. But don’t underestimate new members — for example, new members with management or administration skills can be excellent candidates for even Board positions in their first year of membership.
Step Four — If your club’s By-Laws don’t include the concept of a membership that is expected to volunteer, at some appropriate time move to include it. It’s easily written. This tag line might be added, for example, to a section such as Member’s Responsibilities, “Members are expected to volunteer.”
Which leaves the next question, “How will this four-step plan impact volunteer Types in a club?”