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Shaking Up Your Volunteer Strategy

This guest blog post is by Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE - President, Mariner Management.

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The ASAE Research Foundation’s latest study on volunteer models offers a roadmap for associations intent on maximizing the volunteer experience – for the benefit of the member and the mission. And it can’t come soon enough. The handwriting has been on the wall – associations have consistently failed to fully resource their volunteer systems.  2023 needs to be a turning point. We have in the past 2 years innovated our education and digital strategies, our decision-making models and our workplaces. To a certain degree, we innovated our member engagement strategy as well – and let left the volunteer strategy to age another year. 

A new volunteer management model for 2023 looks like this:

  • Is built on two critical elements: (1) a clearly defined purpose for the use of volunteers (what is their role vs staff) that fully aligns with the capacity of the volunteer pool and the association to support their efforts and (2) a clearly articulated definition of effective volunteering which is supported through a formal assessment process which enables the association to measure effectiveness of the work, the groups, and the individuals. 
  • Has a well-defined structure which grounds an association’s volunteer management in a clearly defined purpose for volunteers, job design based on that purpose and organizational capacity, a formal, objective assessment process, and well-trained staff.
  • Has adopted a framework that offers the following characteristics of excellence to support and sustain your volunteer management system.
    • An organizational culture which supports and applauds volunteerism among members and staff
    • Clarity of purpose and definition of high performing
    • Holistic and transparent volunteer system infrastructure
    • Commitment to continuous improvement
    • Professional development
    • Staff readiness and preparedness
    • Information and knowledge transfer
    • Anticipatory capabilities and responsiveness
    • Resource commitment
    • Community focus
    • Strong identification and connection to the profession or trade
  • Has made an investment in staff training and support for those engaged with volunteers. The readiness of staff has a significant impact on the effectiveness of volunteers. And yet for many associations, serving as a staff liaison is too often included in “other duties”.

Three closing thoughts.

Associations not only rely on volunteers, volunteerism is what makes an association what it is. Volunteers represent on average 20-25% of the labor force hours in a typical association. We can’t move our mission or meet member needs without them. It is high time we invested in this core element of our organizations.

Members participating in the ASAE Foundation study report they will continue to volunteer. The nuance to that “prediction” is it will only come true if we honor volunteer’s time. The study showed that volunteers continued to show up when the felt they were in an appropriate role which used their time effectively and had a meaningful impact on their profession, industry or community. 

The success of your volunteer strategy has huge impacts on two other areas: living your association’s DEIA commitment and supporting chapters and components. Associations will need to shift their recruitment and selection process to engage a diverse pool of members. Chapters and components must get new volunteer models to succeed. To continue the same governance model means components will continue to struggle with finding and keeping volunteers.

The ASAE Research Foundation study on A Holistic Approach to Association Volunteer Management is set to release in Q1 of 2023. Answer the call to innovate your volunteer strategy.

Mariner Management led the ASAE Foundation’s latest volunteer study in addition to the 2017 study which uncovered the concept of Mutually Beneficial Volunteerism. Mariner works with associations to innovate volunteer and component structures to drive member engagement and organizational success. 

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Shaking Up Your Volunteer Strategy

The handwriting has been on the wall – associations have consistently failed to fully resource their volunteer systems.  We have in the past 2 years innovated our education and digital strategies, our decision-making models and our workplaces. To a certain degree, we innovated our member engagement strategy as well – and left the volunteer strategy to age another year.  Here's a new volunteer management model for 2023 and what it looks like.

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