There is a reason that so many groups spend time thinking about “engagement.” While it is a truism that people support good causes that are doing good in the world, it is equally true that people’s resources tend to follow their passions and involvements. Therefore, it pays to spend some time not only thinking who you want to involve with your organization, but how. A critical piece of involvement is clear and shared expectations. This can only take place if the organization has taken the time to develop a list of what is expected of a volunteer as well as what can be expected by the organization. Too often, organizations will try to engage someone without a clear goal. This approach is fraught with peril as a person might agree to engage with you initially because he/she likes or supports your mission, but without a clear set of expectations, you run the risk of losing this volunteer as quickly as you got him/her. As a first step, begin at the beginning–“Why are you seeking to engage volunteers?” Once this is answered, then adetermine “What are you expecting from the volunteer?” Spend some time thinking this through. What are the specific things you expect? What is the specific time committment? What can they expect to receive from the organization? With clarity of purpose comes a clear sense of expectations.
Organizations often fail at engagement because they do not do the simple but meaningful pre-work to volunteer recruitment. Defining the need, expectations (for both the volunteer and the organization), time commitment and accountability will help build a more fruitful relationships. Find passionate people who believe in your mission and work to engage them. These relationships will have a strong positive impact on the organization, but only if you plan well and begin with “the beginning”.