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Are You Supporting Your Association Volunteers the Right Way

Are You Supporting Your Association Volunteers the Right Way

Let me pose three questions to you:


  1. Do you have issues getting your members to engage in volunteering with your association?
  2. Do you have a succession plan that looks at who your members are and what motivates them to volunteer for your association?
  3. Have you provided education and training, tools and resources on best practices in volunteer engagement in your association?
  4. Does your website reflect the opportunities and benefits of volunteering in your association?


Okay, that was four questions. If you answer no to any of these, then you need to ask yourself what can you do to make volunteerism attractive to your members and once you have them engaged, how do you support them through their tenure as a volunteer?


Supporting Your Volunteers

An association’s volunteer engagement strategies are key to ensuring that there is a solid foundation to support their volunteer efforts.

This solid foundation needs to include the following steps:


  • Clear role descriptions and committee terms of references that all volunteers receive when they begin their term
  • Specific policies and procedures related to volunteer engagement (beyond Association Charters)
  • Adopting the Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement, which is a best practice model of the standards of volunteer engagement
  • Screening and onboarding processes that are transparent including forms such as Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality
  • Volunteer Engagement data management tool
  • Training and education for volunteer engagement (communication skills, volunteer leadership skills, best practices for committees and boards to name a few)
  • Retention and succession planning on an annual basis
  • Volunteer feedback and evaluation protocol
  • Volunteer off boarding process and recognition that reflects their experiences and encourages the volunteer to continue to be an ambassador of the association


So, if you are not already stressed that you don’t have these in place, now you have to consider the diversity of your volunteer base.

Are you looking at diversifying your volunteer committees and roles and do they reflect the changing demographics?

Do you understand the differences between the generations and how they interact with each other?

The first step to bridging the intergenerational gaps is to understand each other and the different ways that they communicate and learn to blend the differences to ensure that you are responding to their needs.

For example, baby boomers are used to in person contact and yet the Generation X is highly tech savvy and prefers to multi-task. So, picture sitting in a committee meeting and your volunteers are looking at their phones all the time….is this going to sit well with everyone or is this becoming the norm? Are they using their phones to take notes? Is this OK or is this the just becoming the norm?

This is just an example of what the future will hold as the generations continue to blend.

Consider what your priorities are in the next 10 years, can your Association continue to engage volunteers is the same way that they had 10 years ago? If not, it is time to create a strategic plan that focuses on volunteer engagement.

Lori will be attending and presenting at National Conference in Newfoundland, so please join her session or reach out at anytime.



For more information or articles of volunteer engagement, go to lorigotliebconsulting.wordpress.com. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions to lorigotliebconsulting@gmail.com.



Learning how best to support your volunteers begins by understanding how they fit in to the big picture of your not-for-profit organization. A book by Jack Shand, CAE, and Kenneth Thacker, Role of Volunteers in Non-Profit Organizations can help you better understand how and where volunteers fit in so you can offer them the best support possible.



Lori Gotlieb, Volunteers, Leadership


Guest Contributor, Governance / Leadership



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