How to Overcome Volunteer Reluctance

Guest post by Dean Vella

Overcoming volunteer reluctanceSome nonprofits seem to have a golden touch when it comes to recruiting volunteers. For others, it’s a never-ending task. Which begs the question: Why are some people reluctant to volunteer? And, more importantly, how can your organization surmount that hesitancy?

Why People Don’t Volunteer

  • “I don’t have time.” The best prospects are busy people. They fear adding to a full schedule and may think that if they volunteer for one event, you’ll never let them go.
  • “I don’t know what I can do.” People don’t know what opportunities are available or what contributions they can make.
  • “I can’t afford to give.” Many prospective volunteers think you’ll ask them for their money, as well as their time.
  • “I don’t know who needs my help.” Even your best-fit prospects might not be aware of what your organization does – or that you need help.

Why People Should Volunteer

Studies show volunteering offers a bevy of benefits, from improved interpersonal and communication skills to increased knowledge about topics related to the experience.

Plus, volunteering can reduce stress, improve mental health and increase life satisfaction. Volunteer service also looks good on a resume and can help you land a job. After all, meeting the right people and learning new skills can go a long way to opening doors in the marketplace.

That’s a pretty impressive list of upsides in return for doing something that doesn’t cost a dime.

Why People Volunteer

We’ve reviewed why people don’t volunteer and why they should volunteer. But how about those who do volunteer? What makes them step up to the plate?

  • Giving back is part of life – Volunteering is something they’ve always done or is an integral part of their religious practice.
  • They care about the cause – Some people are compelled to help a cause they relate to or an organization that has assisted them in the past.
  • Trying something new – Volunteering is an opportunity to learn new work or life skills.
  • Personal satisfaction – People like knowing that they have done a good thing or helped someone else.
  • Being recognized – It feels good to be recognized and appreciated. Volunteering can provide that boost, even when a paying job doesn’t.

Recruiting loyal volunteers can be made easier by first understanding why people volunteer and, especially, why they don’t. For nonprofit organizations, it’s vital to develop a strategy that can overcome the objections of potential volunteers and answer the big question: “What’s in it for me?”

Try offering shorter-time commitments, flexible schedules and opportunities to volunteer from home. Finally, don’t hesitate to communicate at every opportunity that volunteering can make you feel good, reduces stress and expand your horizons.

Dean Vella writes about nonprofits and negotiations on behalf of University Alliance, a facilitator of online nonprofit leadership, and conflict resolution training.

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