Finding qualified volunteers to fill open positions at your organization is sometimes one of the toughest parts of the job. Identifying the match between what your organization needs and what volunteers have to offer is critical. We probably all know of great volunteers who left their posts because something unexpected happened that was more than they bargained for.
To avoid those unplanned surprises, here are a few common-sense questions potential volunteers usually have, and some information you can provide up front that will help them be informed, prepared and confident they made the right choice to volunteer for your organization.
What, exactly, do you need me to do?
Job descriptions are not just for paid employees. If you are asking someone to be a volunteer for your organization, have an outline of the things they need to be responsible for. Whether you have volunteer board members who will be making important decisions and interacting with the membership on a regular basis, or you are working with one-time event volunteers, outline EXACTLY what you want them to do—whether it is advising on budget, facilities and personnel issues or directing traffic for a four-hour shift (rain or shine) at a fundraising event.
How much time do I have to commit?
It's obvious you will want to provide a meeting schedule that outlines the dates, times and locations of meetings and obligations volunteer board or committee members will need to be available for (and let them know if there are consequences for non-attendance). But don't forget to mention that each meeting might require some prep work, research, financial statement review interaction with a contributing committee or other time commitment. If there are decisions or actions that need to take place between scheduled meetings, mention those too. For one-time event volunteers, be clear on the shift requirements, particularly if they will be expected to arrive earlier or stay later than the published hours for the event.
Are any of my expenses covered?
Do you pay your volunteer board or committee members for mileage to attend your meetings and events? Do you cover hotel, airfare or local transportation costs if they have to travel a long way for an early morning, or multi-day obligation? What about parking costs? Meals? If they are representing your association in an official volunteer capacity, they will want to know these things. And, if they are “officially” representing your association, will you help them look that way by providing logoed clothing, or are they expected to purchase their own?
What about free services?
If your organization provides education sessions, products, services, consulting or any number of things that associations are known for, does being a volunteer with your group qualify anyone for free or reduced costs for these things?
Whether they are one-time event volunteers or the individuals who will eventually become the backbone of your association, your volunteers will be better positioned to do their best for you when they clearly understand the expectations and they can be prepared to meet them.