Volunteer Engagement Today: Committee Volunteers, Task Force Members and Volunteer Task Rabbit
My dear friend Simi Kaplin Baer texted me yesterday to ask an important question. Why doesn’t the nonprofit organization which she is deeply involved with as a volunteer understand that she is happy to do tasks and even take on projects, but as a mother of three and full-time attorney, she doesn’t have time for committee meetings. She is not alone.
Adults employed full-time report working an average of 47 hours per week, which equates to nearly six days a week, according to Gallup. Add in errands, household chores, childcare, family time, exercise and sleep and our lives are busy!
At the same time, the expertise and time demands on nonprofits are greater and can’t be covered by staff alone. Beyond serving on a committee, how can we create volunteer opportunities that fit with people’s lives today?
Option 1: Have committee volunteers who do not attend meetings regularly but are identified as interested and available to take mutually agreeable work delegated to them by the committee. For example, Sharon is not on the development committee but is a development committee volunteer and helps with all the decorations for events or Alan is volunteer of the program committee. He doesn’t plan the programs, but he is happy to help at the programs on Mondays which is his day off.
Option 2: More and more boards are turning to task forces or advisory groups to engage new, busy or burned out volunteers. The scope and time for these alternatives are more limited. For example, instead of serving on a communication or marketing committee, you may be asked to serve on the website revision task force or instead of serving on the membership committee, you may be asked to be a member of the next generation advisory group. The website task force will meet for four months and disband when the new website is rolled out. The next generation advisory group will meet three times and then make a recommendation to the membership and marketing committee on ways to attract younger members.
Option 3: For some volunteers, being a committee volunteer or a task force member is still too much of a commitment. What if you could find a volunteer opportunity when you had time or could be called upon when you were really needed? Think volunteer Task Rabbit . It need not be complicated. You can use your website, Facebook page or list-serve to put out projects or simple jobs that need to be done, for example, running a carnival at member appreciation day, stuffing a mailing, chaperoning a trip, making phone calls to members for renewals etc. The key is to be specific: what needs to be done (stuff how many envelopes), where can it be done (at the organization or at the volunteer’s home or office) and when does it need to be done by (date and time).
Most organizations don’t have volunteer coordinators and don’t have enough committee workers, but they have a lot of work that needs to get done. If nonprofits want people to volunteer, meet your volunteers where they are – which is busy! Chunk the work into well-defined, time-bound asks for people to take on as projects or tasks. Think committee volunteers, task force members and volunteer Task Rabbit.