Monday, July 27, 2015

Volunteer Motivation

Last week, we discussed a few ways to make sure you can keep the volunteers you have recruited. Taking steps to ensure your volunteers stay helps reduce negative impacts caused by turnover, and volunteers who are engaged and motivated are happier and more productive. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating and keeping volunteers. Therefore, this week we will examine some of the science behind motivating people, and some suggestions on applying it to your own organization.

Take a look at the following video by RSA Animate. It discussed some research that has been conducted into the types of rewards that motivate humans.

According to the many studies that were highlighted in this video, people are not necessarily motivated by monetary rewards. This piece of information is important to any volunteer administrator, since the majority of volunteers don't receive any kind of monetary reward. People volunteer because they are motivated to use their skills to make a contribution. I have found this to be true among my 4-H volunteers. They give their time and their skills because they want to contribute to the positive development of our 4-H members. I have even experience this concept myself--as a college student, I spent my spring breaks traveling to rural or low income areas to make a difference in those communities. I was not paid to go on these trips, and even had to fundraise to pay for the cost of transportation, food, and lodging.

Our Alternative Spring Break Group at the St. Luke's Center in Flint, MI.
What does this mean for your organization? Although recognition and communication remain important to retaining your volunteers, keep in mind the concepts from this video to help you understand your volunteers. First of course, is the idea of mastering a skill, and using that skill to go towards a greater purpose. Second, you want to make sure your volunteers have some autonomy in their work. My volunteers don't like to be micromanaged, and they really don't like having to attend meetings that aren't of any value to their time. However, they do appreciate meetings that are more educational and can help them improve their skills and contributions to our 4-H Clubs. What's most important about this is making sure you don't put too much emphasis on profit, instead of purpose.

Lastly, be intentional with your programs and your use of volunteers. As I mentioned previously, my volunteers don't like to attend meetings just for the sake of a meeting. Similarly, don't utilize your volunteers for programs that are simply created to add to your numbers. With monetary reward off the table, volunteers will become more engaged when they are using their skills for a bigger purpose in the organization. 

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