Stop Asking for Volunteers

08 Oct 2013, Keegan Johnson

Stop Asking for Volunteers

Stop Asking for Volunteers


This may seem counter-intuitive, but you need to stop asking for volunteers.  What we hear most often from non-profit Executive Directors is “None of our members are willing to really get involved”.  The challenge is we are really looking for passionate partners, but we’re asking for volunteers.  Here are 3 quick tips to turn your uncommitted members into fanatical advocates:


1) Provide a clear mission - If you can’t repeat your mission right now, its not clear.  If you mission is longer than 10 words, its not clear.  You need a mission that everyone gets and everyone can repeat.  Why would anyone want to help us, if we can’t quickly describe what we’re trying to accomplish.


2) Outline a simple plan – Now you need to prove, in 3-5 steps, that you have a plan to accomplish your mission.  Everyone wants to be on a winning team, and if we can’t explain how we’re going to accomplish our mission, it lowers the chance anyone will want to get involved.  If you don’t have your plan together yet, then make a plan to get a plan.  It’s okay to say, “we’re going to bring together 10 of the top experts in our field, put together a game plan and then go and get it done“.  It’s not okay, to not talk to your members about your plan.


3) Ask for One SMALL Step – Too often we get our members ready to help out and then ask them to ‘volunteer’.  What does that even mean?  Asking people to volunteer is asking them “to perform a service willingly and without pay”.  How uninspiring is that!  Ask them to do something specific, that is on your plan, that will help you achieve your mission.  Now they are a part of your movement!

Something like … “as I mentioned a critical step is for us to bring together the top 10 experts in our field.  I’ve already got the experts to commit to help us out, but now we need to get all of their travel arrangements sorted out.  Can you help us book their travel and hotel arrangements?”

Now you’ve got someone who has bought into achieving your mission, understands how to get it done and is ready to take the first step … the beginning of a fanatical advocate.

What do you need to do TODAY to start turning your members into fanatical advocates?

  • Steven Johnson

    I would love to volunteer for another country, but the thing is i havent found one volunteer group thats willing to help me to pay. im a very dedicated and caring person for others that dont nessecarily have what we have. If theres anyway that you can contact me or lead me in the right direction for volunteering, id greatly apppreciate it. Thanks and have a wonderful day.

    • keeganj

      Great to hear you are interested in making a difference. You should think of volunteering abroad a little bit like getting a job. The volunteer group doesn’t know you and doesn’t know your capabilities and interests. It’s a risk for them to ‘pay’ for you to go abroad without any idea how valuable you really are. What you can do is define exactly how you want to volunteer (e.g., building schools, helping organize, teaching English, caring for the sick). Next you can find the groups who are doing what you want to do. Finally you can develop a relationship with them. They may not pay for you to go abroad right away, however if you are really interested and volunteer with them (without pay assistance) in some capacity, as they begin to understand your skills and dedication than the opportunity to get help (e.g., pay) to go abroad may become a reality. Start first with the specifics around how you can help them, the rest will come after that.