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Building Member Engagement: How Volunteers Can Help

There is a wide range of volunteer opportunities you can offer to encourage more member engagement and ultimately improve your association's renewal rate. The more opportunities provided for members to take on, the more engaged they'll be.

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Member engagement is what keeps associations thriving. According to AMO, the more your members are engaged, the more likely they are to renew their membership. It’s all the page clicks, emails opened, and online searches that turns up your association and its products.

Actively using volunteers is a great source for building more member engagement in an association. Volunteers help your association meet its mission by better serving the community and the industry, and what makes them so beneficial is their genuine care for what your organization stands for.

Volunteers also represent a diverse range of skills and experience from your industry. These skills can help your organization reach new audiences, as well as encourage members, and even leaders, in your association to expand their knowledge and skills.

By maximizing the amount of volunteerism in your association, you are simultaneously opening the door to many more engaging opportunities for your members.

Like noted before, more engagement ultimately means more satisfaction within one’s membership. You want your members to feel like they are getting the most out of their time and money, and utilizing more volunteers in your association is a great way of making that happen. The more satisfied your members are, the more likely they are to renew their membership when the time comes.

1. Why involve volunteers in your association?

There are many reasons why volunteers are great for your association. According to research done by Points of Light, an organization dedicated to volunteer work, for every dollar a non-profit association spends towards volunteer engagement, they can expect a $6 return. That’s a huge return of investment.

By maximizing the use of volunteers, your association can operate at almost half the median budget compared to other nonprofits that don’t utilize volunteers. Not only that, but engaging volunteers can help to make your organization “more adaptable, sustainable and capable of expanding” according to Tricia Thompson, vice president of training at Points of Light.

Volunteers also help to deepen member relations with other members and leaders in the association. Incorporating members as volunteers for your association benefits both your organization and the members, and ultimately help bring about more engaging opportunities.

2. So, why do people want to volunteer for an association?

There are many reasons why the members in your association want to volunteer. Your members want to be engaged through their membership, or may just want to volunteer for self-interested or altruistic reasons.

Volunteering can help members develop new skills, as well as help them in their career. Volunteering also helps people gain more recognition and visibility, aiding in raising their profile. Members may also volunteer for the social payoff, allowing them to meet and work with more people from the industry. For younger members who are new to the industry, volunteering in the association can help them build a resume. They can also benefit from volunteering because of the learning opportunities and chances to try new things.

Many people volunteer purely for the chance to give back or help others. If this is your member’s motivation, they will certainly benefit from engaging themselves and volunteering as their involvement can contribute to meaningful outcomes for others in the association.

3. How do you recruit more member volunteers?

Members can be potential volunteers, and are more likely to volunteer if there are a variety of opportunities available. Many larger volunteer-needed tasks may intimidate potential members from volunteering due to the added workload, even if they really want to volunteer. By offering a variety of volunteer-needed tasks, such as micro-volunteering opportunities, your association will be more likely to recruit volunteers.

Micro-volunteering, according to Higher Logic, consists of “bite-sized” volunteer opportunities that only take a few minutes to a few hours to complete. These opportunities can be either in person or online, and can be easily squeezed into an eager-to-volunteer member’s workload. Using micro-volunteering opportunities is a great way to engage members, especially millennial members. Based on statistics from Volunteer Weekly, about 76% of micro-volunteers are under the age of 34. This is probably due to the fact that they are easy to do and commonly run through online and smartphone technology.

Implementing both micro-volunteer and larger volunteer opportunities in your association is going to provide more options for your members and potential volunteers. More options for them means more likeliness that they’ll volunteer and be engaged.Here are some examples of where your association can use volunteers:

1) Community level opportunities

This can consist of volunteers with specific skills or interests leading specific events or workshops in the community.

2) Blog contributors

Having an active blog is a great way to reach a wide audience, keep members up to date on things in your field, and spark interest for potential members. Using volunteers to create online content helps to engage your members, as well as help you learn more about what your members like and value.

3) Mentors

Volunteers can help by mentoring new members in your association or people in the industry. This can easily be done through an online community and help volunteers easily connect with people. Mentoring can be an engaging opportunity for your members that is also influential to the youth or potential members in the industry.

4) Webinar Leaders

Webinars are great for providing educational content to members. By using member volunteers to run or provide content to these webinars, you are allowing them to become more engaged by taking the lead on the content they want to know more of and find relevant.

These are just a few examples of larger volunteer opportunities your association can offer. Other ways to get more member volunteers is to give rewards to those who volunteer for your association. Rewarding their efforts helps reinforce the volunteer experience, and helps encourage more members to participate.

Don't forget that appreciation is essential.

Appreciating your volunteers for the hard work they do for your association goes a long way. Their engagement, as well as their care for the association itself and the field, helps supplement your team’s workload and develop member relations to the organization.

By showing your appreciation, your volunteers are more likely to continue volunteering. This can be done through personalized letters, shout-outs in the community, or even badges of “volunteer completion” that they can put on their profiles and resumes.  Associations Now states that approximately 80% of members ultimately renew their memberships across the association industry.

There is a wide range of volunteer opportunities you can offer to encourage more member engagement and ultimately improve your association's renewal rate. The more opportunities provided for members to take on, the more engaged in the association they will be. This can have a positive influence and encourage your members to renew their membership when the time comes, which proves how utilizing more volunteers in your association can be so beneficial.