When a Volunteer Tells You “No”

Guest post by Bob D’Ambrosio, Group Publishing

Don't let a "No" response from a volunteer get you down.

Don’t let a “No” get you down.

The best way to involve someone in your organization is to ask them. But making the “big ask” means you may hear that dreaded word: No

Hearing people say “No” is part of the invitation process. They’re not saying no to you, but rather to the opportunity to serve. Try to keep this in perspective since the more people you invite, the more you’ll hear that word!

When a potential volunteer does say “No”, don’t panic.

Trying to become Joe (or Jane) salesperson to force a yes will only be seen as arm twisting and manipulation. But you do want to discern why the offer was declined.

Here’s what “No” often means:

“I don’t feel qualified.” A No may indicate the volunteer doesn’t feel qualified to serve in the position. First timers especially may feel they don’t have the background or experience to serve. This is really a training issue. Inform the person of training opportunities that will be provided to equip him or her to be successful in the position.

“This is not a good time.” Everyone has seasons in life when they may not be able to serve. Children, health, employment (or lack of) may interfere with a person’s time commitment. They may be more receptive if a different schedule is offered or when the next opportunity becomes available.

“That’s not a good fit.” Your volunteer is not saying no to serving, just to serving in this position. Explore what other options may be a better fit, and refer this person to the leader in his or her area of interest. There may even be other positions available within the same department for your referrals. Pass this information on, and make sure the person is contacted and doesn’t fall through the cracks.

So what do you do after you hear “No?”

Thank the person for considering the opportunity to serve. Be polite and appreciative for his or her consideration of this service opportunity.

Record the person’s response and follow up as needed. For example, if a person says they would be interested in helping next year…someone will need to follow-up. Many tracking programs have “tickler reminders” of when to make the next contact. A No today may be a Yes next month!

Send a personal thank-you note. In your note, include any next steps if you’ll be referring the person to another volunteer area or will be contacting him or her in the future.

Don’t let a “No” response get you down. Asking people to volunteer means sometimes people will say yes and sometimes they’ll say no. Keep focused on the main goal – helping people discover the joy of serving!

Bob D’Ambrosio is a 25-year veteran of vocational ministry and now works at Group Publishing, Loveland, CO. He’s the training director for the Equipping Institute, online editor for CVDaily, and part of the product development team. He recently edited the newly released Volunteer Leadership Series.

2 thoughts on “When a Volunteer Tells You “No”

  1. Thanks a lot for this great piece. Some volunteers and prospective volunteers can definitely be less than forthcoming about their own interests and needs (darn introverts!). It’s helpful to be able to tease out exactly what may be preventing them from participating.

    I really appreciate all the great info on Volunteer Match – you folks have been an amazing resource!

    • Hi Tim – so glad you find the resources on VolunteerMatch helpful! Let us know what else we can do to provide value for you and other organizations doing great work.