Engaging a New Pool of Volunteer Leaders

Courtesy of guardian.co.uk

Courtesy of guardian.co.uk

While people are often open to volunteering when called upon, it can be more difficult to fill volunteer leadership positions in an organization. “I’d love to help with that initiative, but I don’t want to be in charge,” is not an uncommon refrain. Finding suitable people for your board, council, or committee can be especially difficult. When you think about it, it should come as no surprise that these positions are the hardest to fill – they require difficult decision-making, greater responsibility, and oftentimes they demand the biggest time commitment.

In her article, “Where are your volunteer leaders?” in the Nov/Dec 2012 edition of Nonprofit World, Susan Ellis recommends going back to the two basic recruitment principles when recruiting volunteers for leadership positions:

– Identify the benefits of being in a leadership position;
– Identify those people most likely to find those rewards satisfying.

Think outside the box, toss out conventional wisdom, and take a fresh approach if your current volunteer recruitment techniques aren’t working. For example:

– Instead of approaching the hyper-engaged volunteer, ask a less active volunteer that you feel may be looking for an opportunity to step up and make a larger impact. Not only that, but they likely have more time to commit to a leadership position.
– Re-evaluate the role description of the post that you are trying to fill. Sometimes redesigning the role can make the position more enticing (and whenever possible, avoid the dreaded “co-chair” scenario. Often, neither co-chair feels ownership and is wary of overstepping the other).

Considering a wider group of volunteers for leadership positions may help identify someone with unfulfilled potential and, as mentioned in a previous VA blog on retaining volunteers, flexibility is a key to happy volunteers – whether they’re on your board, council or committee. Making accommodations can go a long way to filling those leadership roles in your nonprofit organization.

Nonprofit World is part of the Volunteer Alberta Resource Centre (VARC) collection. To schedule a visit to the Resource Centre, contact Tim at thenderson@volunteeralberta.ab.ca.


Tim Henderson, Office and Communications Coordinator