I have been doing a lot of reading on volunteer management recently, and there’s one author in particular that has captivated me and challenged my views – Wally Harbert. It was Wally’s book Baby boomers and the big society that inspired me to write this week’s Thoughtful Thursday blog. It got me thi... [more]
The following extract is taken from a piece provided by Jonathan Swift, who at the time of writing was working with Manchester Deaf Centre… I’d like to begin by sharing with you something that happened to me recently. Below is a fairly-accurate, direct transcript of events. It’s worth pointing out t... [more]
So inevitably my blog this week is about the big social media meme from last month. You’d need to have slept through August not to know what I’m talking about. For some reason it captured the world wide web’s collective imagination in a big way. Of course I’m talking about the campaign to rescue... [more]
I have an unexpected free morning today, the first Thursday in ages, so am relishing having some time to enjoy my #ttvolmgrs
Loving this topic and motivations is a topic I've been discussing with colleagues from volunteer-involving groups for some time. We have some groups who only want a certain type of volunteer as they perceive they are the motivated to volunteer for the ‘right’ reasons eg white, female, over 50. This is the type of volunteer they’ve had in the past, but with many orgs struggling to recruit volunteers they need to engage a broader range of age groups and skill sets. Their attitude is probably why they are struggling to get volunteers in some cases. It sounds appalling in this day and age that diversity seems to be theory rather than practice for many orgs, but sadly this is often the case, and some orgs perceive that only certain people are the ‘right’ volunteer and have the ‘right’ motivations!
I think any motivation to contribute as a volunteer is valid, if they want to give their time it should be appreciated. Apart from coercion from certain nameless organisations, who threaten people into volunteering, but that’s another blog discussion! What they will get out of the volunteering experience will differ depending on that motivation, but as long as both the volunteer and the organisation benefit, does it matter? Everyone is different, but everyone has something to offer.
The challenge as volunteer managers is trying to spot what the motivators are and develop them. If someone only wants to volunteer to get the right skills to get into work, is that any less ‘noble’ than volunteering because they want to give their time to a charity who supported a friend or relative? Trying to spot motivators is a piece of cake with some volunteers, whereas others will need ferretting out by various means – a conversation, observation, comments from clients they are supporting etc. This is another one of the many skills in the volunteer manager’s repertoire!
Channelling the motivations is easier once you know what’s motivating them. If someone is volunteering to enhance their social life, they need to be provided with opportunities to socialise, as this will motivate them to continue volunteering. For other volunteers looking for a change of career path, they need to have regular challenges and planned targets. Again it’s up to us as volunteer managers to meet their needs and adapt what they are doing where possible to help them achieve their goals.
Thanks for posting this, Sue! I've been having lots of conversations about volunteers and motivation recently & that article really chimed with me.
- Do you agree that some motivations are nobler than others? Does this matter?
I suppose it depends how you define noble? But ultimately, as long as they are keen, have the skills you need and are willing to put in the time, I don't have an issue with what has motivated someone to volunteer. The key though is about what they are prepared to give their time and skills.
I have had an issue in the past (with my volunteer rather than VM hat on) with people who've signed up to volunteer for (mainly) UCAS forms, but have then contributed very little before disappearing a few months later because they no longer have the time to give. Which leads me nicely on to...
- How might you identify a volunteer’s hooks and drivers?
Interview is a good place to do identify a person's motivation. But it's also about making sure recruitment - including ads - is clear about what is expected so they can see from the start whether the role will match their motivation. After all, if it's going to take a few months for them to get through training, we need to be clear about that. And also not be afraid of saying that perhaps this isn't the right role for them at this time. Too often we can be so much in need of volunteers that we don't feel we can think about their motivation. We just need somebody. Yesterday!
And all the while remembering that this changes over time - what do you do with the person who joined to learn new skills who has learned everything you can teach them? How do you continue to motivate them?
- What are your own tips for channeling volunteer motivations?
Now this is a good question I'm not clear on, so am looking forward to seeing what others have to say. I agree with Eileen - we need to try and help channel people with different motivations. But this can be very tricky when a role is restrictive in flexibility.
Ella, thanks for sharing your motivations. I volunteer for St John Ambulance (though taking a break, which is a whole other story about how well that went down!) and joined because I wanted to learn first aid, be helpful in the community and meet new people. Not wholly purist, are they?
I’m volunteering for my local youth club because I want young people to be supported through a time that I personally found very difficult. I also don’t want to see them drunk about town in danger of being run over or getting a bad reputation because the community are ignoring them. I hope that if I have children that they could use the youth club which would still be running. I volunteer because it makes me feel a better sense of worth. I volunteer because I am a VC and feel I need to volunteer to ‘practice what I preach’. I volunteer to meet like-minded people. I volunteer to have some laughs. I volunteer in youth work because it may help me in my career.
Does any of this tell you if I’m any good at volunteering in this role? I sincerely hope not.
It is such a shame that people put up barriers to people volunteering with particular motivations, if they have the qualities that the organisation is looking for. I must confess that yesterday I had a discussion with a colleague about a new community scheme we might help set up in Bournemouth which would give reward points to people who volunteer. With those reward points people can get shopping vouchers, or donate to charity. My colleague asked if we want people who are ‘only volunteering to get a free pair of trainers’. Aside from the ‘rewards’ argument, I reflected and asked was it any different from me volunteering as a teenager to get my Duke of Edinburgh? If we recruit volunteers with the right skills and abilities, surely it is nonsense to allow motivation to get in the way!