Volunteers. How come there are never enough?

Volunteers always seem to be the same people.  Eventually they will burn out, and then what?


Why volunteer?

Canadian Cancer SocietyMost who volunteer are driven by some experience that has affected them.

  • Family member with cancer.
  • Parents were active in the church.
  • Children are involved in a sport or activity.
  • Strong belief in being involved in the community. (Rare!)

These people volunteer for different reasons.  For some, it’s the personal satisfaction of knowing they had an effect on the outcome of something special.  In some cases, it’s a matter of ensuring the activity will go forward for the benefit of themselves or family.

Most social organizations don’t have the funds to pay for all the help they need.  Without volunteers, we would lose a lot of the arts, sports and religious organizations.


Why is it so hard to attract volunteers?

Carey Nieuwhof wrote a great piece on this called “5 Reasons You Don’t Have More Volunteers“.  Carey is the lead pastor at Connexus Community Church and a forward thinker.  He understands the “business” of the church.  He talks about things like accommodating some needs, asking the right way, etc.  I would like to expand on that a bit.

Barry ClermontOne of the challenges I have seen is that potential volunteers are intimidated by what appears to be a huge commitment.  Most of us are involved in more than one venture and fear that we won’t be able to meet the needs of yet another organization.  Others are busy with the needs of children or aging parents.  Yet others have businesses or jobs that make great demands on their time and they just don’t see how they could help.

As an example, my friend had been asking for years that I join the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s organization that does community service and raises funds for charities.  I kept telling him no way, I just don’t have the time.  He finally responded with, just give us the time you have.  Smart cookie, that guy!  That took away the reservation about ongoing commitment.  In the end, I do their monthly news letter, maintain their website and help with activities when I can.  No is such a difficult word!

Ask the right question and ask it in a way that you can get a yes response.  Whenever possible, be specific in your ask.  Volunteers are more likely to answer yes to a request to drive on a specific day or make a particular dish for a party.  I think sometimes we, as the organizers, shy away from this because it takes more time and effort to manage.  Delegate!  Find that person who just wants to do that!


How and where do I get more volunteers?

Andy Stanley did a series on Love, Sex and Dating that contains part of the answer.  We are all looking for that certain someone at some point in our lives to start a relationship.  It’s really no different when searching for volunteers, employees or business partners.  Become the person you are looking for!

When people who are oriented to volunteering come across active, involved and happy volunteers, they are drawn to them.  Watch out for the cocoon effect.  Too often, the people who have been volunteering for some time send out unwelcome signals.  “We’ve been doing it this way for years”, “We need you to commit…”, and so on.  Most of us are Type A personalities and comments like that just send us in the other direction.  If you really want the help, be open to approach and new ideas.

This discussion could go on and on but in a nutshell:  Become that organization that everyone wants to be a part of!


Make it a great day,


P.S.  What am I thankful for today?  I’m thankful for volunteers who help keep our communities vibrant.  I’m thankful for leadership that understands the needs of the volunteer.  I’m thankful for the wonder that each moment brings to my life.

What are you thankful for today?

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