We all have them at some point – those rock star, give all that they got volunteers that lead our organization to new heights. They have the energy and drive to follow through on any commitment they make, and the results are top notch. Many have their finger on the pulse of opportunities and/or warning signs in the community and become strategic advisors if not members of the board. Yet, these volunteers don’t just magically appear – they have an origin story, a path they have taken. Organizations that succeed in discovering them earlier, in empowering that growth, in turn have developed the very volunteers they wish to see lead.
So where to start? First, know the qualities you are seeking for the key volunteer roles that define your organization. Yes, there are commonalities – honesty, integrity, loyalty, etc. but there are also unique traits that can often be ascribed to specific volunteer roles. Define those traits.
Next, create paths of volunteer discovery. Do you have a volunteer referral program, where current volunteers know the above traits you are looking for, and can pass along contacts that they meet for an invitation to get involved? Do you have an easy to access portal where new professionals, either to the field or to your area, can self-identify with what role they would like to take? And, are there opportunities throughout the year, so the person who wants to get involved doesn’t have to wait 11 months for the next ‘Call’. Finally, are you tracking the involvement of current volunteers. There may be a member who has helped plan local events, getting more and more involved – how are you tracking those efforts so they don’t fly beneath the radar, but are highlighted through data analysis of the roles they have played as a diamond in the rough?
Finally, share the stories of volunteers whose paths serve as an example for those just getting started. Short vignettes from your current super-volunteers – why they got involved, how, what impact it has made on their career – personal stories make an impression. By sharing their stories, you share inspiration for what a difference a volunteer can make for your organization, and for their field.
While there is no foolproof plan to discovering tomorrow’s leaders today, and we have always had volunteers step up and hopefully will continue to do so, focusing intent on the leaders that your organization needs and wants to see will increase your chances of finding those key players. Investing in the effort of volunteer discovery and growth will reap a stronger led organization down the road.