Will work for purpose

Managing Volunteers / Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

So you’re leading an organization whose lifeblood is volunteers – but how do you go about recruiting and retaining individuals who are just as sold out on your mission as you?  The truth is – those of us in cause based work have a tremendous advantage: our work has purpose, and most people don’t feel they have purpose at their day jobs.

It is a sad fact in our society that the vast majority of people are dissatisfied with their work – check out this article to see some clear examples of disgruntled and disaffected employees.   But why do people dislike their work?  Well, survey after survey has actually shown that employees want purpose above all other benefits (check this article for some info on that).  Think about that – an employee’s greatest pain point at work is that they do not feel their work has meaning – thus, our greatest advantage as volunteer recruiters lies in providing purpose.  Here are 5 important strategies you should implement today to show potential volunteers (most of whom are employees somewhere!) that they will work for purpose:  

1.) Show them how they will become part of something larger than themselves.  While companies bring people together to accomplish larger goals, they often fail to share their stories in a way that employees feel connected to their work.  We at non-profits have incredible stories, produce lasting change, and serve the underserved.  Volunteers need to be dunked in these ideals at every turn.

2.) Have a Story.  You can’t be in non-profit work without having a story about how your work changed a life.  Share that!  Find a way to share that story with everyone who walks through your door and to use it in recruiting efforts at local businesses.  People hunger to become part of a purposeful story.  Do not miss your chance to show them how your organization is their answer.

3.) Engage volunteers in a way that uses their professional skills.  In this article I spoke about how businesses were creating great relationships with non-profits by donating expertise – but companies won’t always beat a path to your door – oftentimes you must actively seek employees who have the skillset you need.  For example, Habitat for Humanity frequently recruits out of the banking industry for volunteers to serve families as financial coaches.  This accomplishes two things: it engages a specialized skillset and offers far more purpose than a traditional banking role.

4.) Ask Local Businesses about offering ‘Paid Volunteer Time’.  Employers are increasingly offering paid time off to their employees for the purpose of volunteering for non-profit causes.  This can be an incredible way to recruit volunteers who come for one project, fall in love with your story, and stay on.  But have you asked local businesses about offering this?  If not, give it a try – you’ll be surprised at how receptive they are to getting their employees engaged in meaningful work.

5.) Focus on Purpose.  There is little doubt that we are moving into a ‘Purpose Economy’ (see this site) Millenials are making up one of the largest chunks of the workforce, and they value purpose in life above all else.  Thus, you must work every day to make your volunteers feel they are engaged in purposeful work.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be some busy work – but it does mean that you must use the power of your story to make volunteers feel engaged with your mission.   

Employees in the U.S. hunger for purpose in their work – this has led to one of the greatest recruiting opportunities in a generation.  Please comment below by sharing: what recruitment efforts have you used that target employees who lack meaning in their day jobs?