managing volunteers, new volunteer manager, non-profit, organizations, part time volunteer manager, recruiting volunteers, volunteer, volunteer coordinator, volunteer manager, volunteer retention, volunteering, volunteers
“What a massive responsibility, being a moral creature”
― Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies
Does this line of questioning sound oh so familiar? “Why don’t we have enough volunteers to be an Emergency Buddy? How hard can it be to find people willing to be called in the middle of the night to come by our headquarters to get the emergency plan for the district, drive out to the emergency shelter and then get a shelter spot ready for arrival? I mean c’mon, do you not know how important this volunteer job is? Have you actually tried targeted recruiting? There must be scads of retired emergency personnel who would love to use their talents to help us.”
Well, huh. Why didn’t I think of that the last twelve times I tried targeted recruiting, or maybe I was wrong to try and think out of the box by recruiting those great college students. Perhaps I should lie to potential volunteers so that they don’t know what the job entails? I’m sure that once they realize we lied to them, they’ll forgive us and won’t do a lousy job just because we trained them improperly .
There’s a study that indicates companies spend more resources weeding out lousy employees than they do cultivating superior talent. This lopsided approach often applies to organizational views on volunteer recruitment.
toxic workers are more expensive than superstar hires
The more important the volunteer role, the more up front work is required in order to place excellent and ready volunteers. Proper vetting, orientation and training takes time and effort by hard working volunteer managers.
Sure, warm bodies can fill roles, but cold, hard facts say that
Warm bodies ultimately:
Leave abruptly, usually within the first three months
Do not sync with the organization and remain on the outside
Can do irreparable harm to clients
Volunteer managers understand how much effort it takes to cultivate a qualified volunteer. Because we abhor the “warm body” theory, we will continue to be accused of not providing “enough” volunteers for critical roles.
When pressured by senior management to magically produce more bodies, point to the lack of harmful behavior by your competent volunteers. Remind them that properly vetted and trained volunteers do not damage the very people we serve and oh, yeah, properly vetted and trained volunteers take time and skill to implement.
And maybe ask the person this question: “Would you want a hastily recruited and insufficiently trained volunteer working with your mother, father or child?”
Neither would we.
Sue Hine said:
Very good points Meridian. Trouble is (for me) that sometimes the warmth of human kindness is exactly what is needed, and warm bodies don’t always drift off, be unreliable – not if they are led by managers who know and understand volunteering.
Hi Sue! Thanks for adding that caveat. I failed to mention that warm bodies do have value and some of them turn out to be outstanding volunteers when cultivated by savvy volunteer managers. Thanks for pointing that out and have a wonderful Holiday season!
Sue Hine said:
But your points are really valid: don’t expect volunteers to be on tap, on time, all the time. Too often it is other people in the organisation who treat volunteers as warm bodies. Hope you have a great Christmas too.
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