What’s the reason our institution utilizes volunteers? What’s the point? The purpose?
If we expect our volunteers to provide the definitive answers to these questions, we may want to re-think our role.
As advancement professionals who engage volunteers, our first duty is to understand clearly why they are being asked to volunteer. Our second duty is to provide them with guidance on how they can best fulfill their role.
Too often, I sit with advancement professionals who say things like, “I’ll have to see what the volunteers want to do. . .” Or, “None of them are offering any good ideas. . .”
The perspective that undergirds these types of statements is misguided and unhelpful.
It’s our job to help volunteers be successful. Whether they are serving on a Board or committee, helping with an event, accompanying us on a visit with a major gifts donor, or making a thank-you call to a donor, we provide the framework and the guidance to ensure a meaningful and positive experience.
I recall an interview with an institution’s past major gift donor who also had volunteered some years back for an event. Her volunteer experience was a disaster. She showed up hours prior to the event and found no one to give her good guidance on how she could help. She floated from one task to another, making up work to do, until the awkwardness was too much for her and she left. She told me she had never volunteered in any way for the institution again and probably wouldn’t in the future.
She also said she wasn’t very connected currently to the institution and that her annual, more modest giving wouldn’t change in the future.
People agree to volunteer because they believe in the worthiness of the institution. They want to give their time and their efforts to further the cause.
The least we can do is to know how they can help our institution in meaningful ways and help them fulfill their role.
When we don’t provide this leadership to our volunteers, we run the risk of something far more problematic than a poor volunteer experience.
We run the risk apathy.