Science of motivating volunteers

Managing Volunteers / Friday, June 6th, 2014

Recap from June’s Nonprofit Neighbors discussion on inspiring others.

By: Anna Spady, — June 6, 2014

“Creating a home away from home for families with children living with life-threatening illnesses.”

That is the heart cry of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City, where this month’s Nonprofit Neighbors forum was held on Wednesday.

It’s a charity that’s near and dear to my own heart, because it was my youngest cousin’s ‘home away from home’ when she spent far too much of her early childhood in intensive care. My family raved about what it meant to not have to worry about hotel fees and getting to end their dark days in an inviting place.

Thus, it was lovely to meet in such a heartwarming place and to see several news faces at our monthly meeting. Every person that attendsNPN holds an inspiring story of how the people of Kansas City are working to change the lives of those who need it most.

In front of that audience, it was my privilege to facilitate this week’s discussion, especially since it focused on one of my pet topics — the science behind motivation. The topic was based on a blog post I recently wrote for Charity Village, which will be posted on June 11, and presents a volunteer-focused spin off a great lecture by Daniel Pink who forever changed my perspective on motivation.

A boiled-down version of the lecture is this:

1. Ownership is motivating

When you invite someone to have a stake in something, either by asking their opinion or offering them a choice, you immediately make them invested. One simple application suggested during discussion was a menu of volunteer opportunities.

Give volunteers the opportunity to make their scheduling flexible. We have an ‘a-la-carte’ listing for our volunteer opportunities, that don’t require a long-term commitment so people can help whenever they want.

2. Mastery is motivating

People are driven to mastery. We want to do more than just “get through” life, we want to conquer and contribute. Therefore, volunteer managers need to get to know their volunteers so they can match drive with needs. An easy way to do this is skill-based volunteering, as one attendee pointed out.

We do volunteer interviews, the same way we do job interviews. We want to get an understanding of their skills and what they bring to the table so we know where to place them.

3. Purpose is motivating

The majority of people involved with nonprofits due so because they deeply believe in something. Finding a great cause isn’t hard, believing we’re really making a difference is. Helping volunteers apply meaning isn’t a new a goal, but it’s exactly what nonprofits should refocus on. Do so by explaining what their actions achieve, what it buys/acquires and what it changes.

Explain to your volunteers what their actions do. They think they are just folding clothes or cleaning. But what they’re really doing is giving children a beautiful and safe home to live in. We motivate by making our progress reports meaning focused.

Thank you all for coming out and sharing your wisdom. If you couldn’t make it or have never been, I hope to see you soon and hear your story next month.

Have a topic you’d like to see a blog post on? Want to feature your organization in the next Service Spotlight? Email me at [email protected].