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Volunteer Power!

Volunteer Power News — Number 24
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2004 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers-those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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Cool stuff that you have never heard before follow up

This newsletter is the second in our "Cool Stuff that you never heard before" follow up. - Recruiting. The order you selected as the most important are:

Number One: Motivation -- How to keep my volunteers motivated so that they keep their commitments
Number Two: Recruiting -- How to get quality people to join our volunteer team.
Number Three: Networking -- How to build strategic alliances to find volunteers
Number Four: Branding -- How to establish a well recognized brand such as "Habit for Humanity" or "BMW—the Ultimate Driving Experience" for our organization.
Number Five: Retention -- How to keep our quality volunteers from quitting
Number Six: Managing -- How to juggling multiple projects of volunteer management.

This Issue: Recruiting-How to get quality people to join our volunteer team.

Recruiting is like Dating

Typical volunteer recruiting is like the total stranger who sees a gorgeous woman and asks, "Hey, would you marry me?" Or perhaps like the woman who stands up in church and announces, "I'm looking for a husband-anyone interested in marrying me tomorrow see me after the service."

At a recent Volunteer Power training session a volunteer manager cornered me during a break and questioned the "Permission Recruiting" approach I was presenting. She told me that at their orientation session of interested volunteers they passed around a sign in sheet, got sign ups and then put the volunteers to work." She seemed to want me to approve of her system. I actually thought it sounded like a stupid idea-well, stupid may be a little harsh-but I didn't think it would work. So I asked her, "Is it working?" She was quiet for a minute and then said, "Well, we do have a lot of turn over. The volunteer job just doesn't seem to be as exciting as it sounded in the orientation. After all, it's a lot of work for no pay."

What is Permission Recruiting?

Seth Godin coined the phrase "Permission Marketing." He is referring to marketing on the internet. Spam is "interruption marketing". Cold calls at dinner time are "interruption marketing." But "e-zines" are "permission marketing" because you have given permission to receive valuable information.

I believe that we can learn a lot about our recruiting methods from Seth Godin's permission principles. I call it "Permission Recruiting."

Classic volunteer recruiting is a four-step process.

Step 1. Make an announcement (in a meeting) or advertise (i.e. www.volunteermatch.com) to get volunteers.
Step 2. Put those who volunteer to work.
Step 3. End up with BIC (butt in the chair). We get anyone who can fog a mirror and only about 10% of our volunteer are quality, hardworking, committed people. But the sales people tell us that is the way it is in selling, so we figure it is O.K.
Sept 4. Stress over all of the vacancies we have to fill.

However, "permission recruiting" recognizes that getting someone to volunteer is like the dating process--getting to know each other and finally asking the question. In recruiting we are not recruiting the volunteer, we are only going to get permission to ask them out on a date-a date to talk about our organization , our cause, our mission and the opportunity to make a difference. Each date is filled with opportunities for exchange, questions, feedback, and stories of our organization. Buy the time we "pop the question," or ask the person to join our volunteer team, we are confident they will say "yes."

How do we make this process work?

Permission to ask for a date: Make an announcement (in a meeting) or advertise to get permission. Our announcements are not to get volunteers. The only purpose of our announcement is to get permission to meet with a prospective volunteer. When a person responds, they have given you permission for the date.

The First Date: The purpose of the first date is to get to know each other. You want to present your work. It may be an orientation session or a one-on-one meeting. The content of the meeting will be the following:
1. The need
2. How your organization is filling the need and the very specific needs that you have.
3. Tell the story (tell a success story of how volunteers are impacting the community.
4. Ask for feedback-how they think that they might help. What are their strengths, talents and experience that might help them. What is their experience? What is their passion?

Although the content of the meeting is important, the actual purpose of the meeting is to get a second date. You ask them the question, "Is this something that you would be interested in?" When the person responds yes to that question, they have given you permission to ask for the second date.

The Second Date: Be very specific. You take the information that the person gave to you in the first date and design a job description for the person. You meet with this person over coffee, a meal, or in an office to give them the position charter (see a sample position charter). The goal is to ask them if they would make the commitment to be a part of your volunteer organization.

Future Dates: Many volunteers will make a commitment after the second date because in that period of time they have attended your meetings, read information about your organization and are ready to get involved. However, some will need more time. They may say no at first, but don't be discouraged because "no" often doesn't mean "no" but "not now." In six months to a year the volunteer manager needs to ask for another date.

Some impatient, impulsive volunteer managers always say, "I don't have time to meet with each volunteer multiple to recruit them." It can sound overwhelming; however, when you look at the time you waste training and retraining the high percentage of volunteers who are quitting, you are way ahead by using the "permission recruiting" method.

Volunteer is Not a Verb - It is a Noun

Volunteer managers must change their perception of the word volunteer. Volunteer cannot be viewed as a verb. We are not looking for someone "to volunteer". We are looking for someone to make a commitment (that is the verb) as a volunteer (the noun) in our cause. When we recognize the significance of volunteer as a noun, we will quit asking for people to volunteer. Instead, we will ask for dates.

Other Methods

The dating process of "Permission Recruiting" is only one aspect of our all-day workshop on recruiting and managing volunteers. Other methods include an analysis of our volunteer benefits. Ask these questions before you ever begin to recruit:

1. Why should anyone want to volunteer for our organization. What's in it for the volunteer? What is the cause that I am appealing to?
2. How many volunteers do I need?
3. How many volunteers are quitting? Why?
4. What is the commitment level that I am asking for?

These questions help me frame my orientation sessions, my advertisements and my presentations about our organization.

You can find other recruiting ideas in the article "The Seven Sins of Recruiting."

Another method of recruiting is networking. In our January newsletter I will outline the steps of using networks. This can increase your volunteer recruiting base 1000%.

I hope this helps.

Remember, How you recruit is the seedbed for the commitment level you get.

Next newsletter: Networking. How to build strategic alliances to find volunteers.

Thank you for reading this month's issue of Volunteer Power News.

Thomas W. McKee
Volunteer Power

Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at tom@advantagepoint.com

For more articles by Thomas McKee, visit the Articles section on our website.

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Please recommend this e-mail newsletter or ezine to anyone who is interested in volunteer management. Thank you for reading this month's issue of Volunteer Power News!