by Stephanie Dohner
How do we get enough volunteers?
In the “good old days”, it was assumed that societies could rely on traditional homemakers to staff the Sunday Schools, run the society offices, put on the bazaars and congregation suppers and, generally, just be available. Now most women work outside the home, and people in general seem to be spending less of their discretionary time in volunteer work. It is true that there are an increasing number of retirees, who may be available to fill some volunteer slots, but the message is clear: No religious or other non-profit organization can assume any longer that a person or group of persons is automatically at its disposal. Volunteers must be recruited.
Of course, this does not mean there are no volunteers. Many people work full-time jobs and then put in many hours for free as coaches, tutors, and in other supportive roles. It merely means no one can be taken for granted.
Filling volunteer job slots is not easy, especially in family societies, where the newcomer usually does not have much choice of jobs. But you are a volunteer, and you may have been working hard for a family or pastoral society for many years. Why have you stayed? What is your motivation? Why do your friends stay? Making a list of the reasons that you and other people you know do what you do will go a long way to explaining what keeps volunteers going in general. Stop and make your list now. It will be an important reference for you as you staff committees.
However, many people do stop volunteering. When you have eliminated the usual reasons: moving, illness in family, new job, new baby, school, or just the desire to do something different, it is time to look carefully at the tasks they left.
Volunteers need to be given jobs that they do well and that they like to do. Volunteers need to know what is expected of them. Volunteers need to be rewarded in ways that please them.
Volunteers need support. They need to know that someone will teach them the skills that they may lack and help them if they get into trouble.
If a few people are doing all the jobs in your society, your leadership probably fills slots with familiar faces instead of recruiting and cultivating new members. They will soon see they are not needed, and find other things to do. Meanwhile, the over-burdened old-timers will either burn out and disappear or dig in and hold on past their effectiveness.
More from Great Expectations: