Building a solid volunteer base is one of the greatest challenges volunteer-based efforts confront. Get off that roller coaster ride of prospecting, recruiting and retaining volunteers! Consider influencing participation through creating prime-connecting conversations with perspective volunteers on an individual basis by using the SMILE method: Stimulate, Manage, Involve, Lavish and Encourage!
Stimulate: Be enthusiastic about your organization! Share information and compelling stories about how the organization benefits others or how the association has benefited you personally. Ask the candidate why they considered joining your agency. As a leader, communicate how you can help the perspective volunteer meet their goals.
Manage: Most volunteer projects involve project management. Be honest about how much time and what skills might be required from the perspective volunteer. Create and furnish each candidate a job description of the required task or title of the position. Whereas volunteers often are very willing to share the time and talents with an organization, these same people appreciate organization and a fair assessment of what the organization requires.
Involve: It is wise to conduct a critical conversation to establish ‘good fit’ at the onset of the relationship. Does the volunteer’s skills match the task? Will the candidate work solo or with others?, Will training be required? Who will mentor or oversee the newbie’s progress? How does the volunteer manage their own time? Where does the person see themselves in your organization?
Lavish: Lavish means giving bountifully and freely of any good thing. Spending time with volunteers and giving praise are two things that all people crave. Be sure to see the volunteer in action often. Ask how they are doing and if any questions exist. Note their progress and give thanks for their support and involvement on a personal level and with group recognition events.
Encourage: Be open to listening when difficulties arise without going into ‘fix-it’ mode. Allow the volunteer to talk about the issue, allow them to offer creative solutions and empower them to move forward. Confidence-building, as well as skill-building, will help retain volunteers who believe their work is adding value to the organization. Happy volunteers often recruit others.
Take an honest look at the prospecting, recruiting and retaining efforts of your volunteer organization and make adjustments accordingly. Are you smiling?