At least 80 percent of nonprofits in America rely on volunteers for their workforce. In fact, most nonprofits would not exist if not for the volunteers that serve them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report providing some startling numbers:

  • 62.6 million people volunteered in 2013
  • 1.1 percent decline in overall volunteerism
  • Volunteerism is at its lowest point since 2002

These are statistics nonprofit organizations do not want to see.

In the same report, the median annual hours of volunteering for both men and women are 50. This equates to less than an hour a week of time, which begs the question, "How much time will we receive in our nonprofit organization?" It is time to throw out the archaic concept of the volunteer job description and rename it the "volunteer experience opportunity."

With fierce competition for our volunteers' time, we have found that building an experience rather than "giving a job" is 50 percent more effective in recruiting new volunteers and retaining the ones you have. In building your volunteer experience opportunity, these are the top 10 questions you will want to answer:

  1. What will this volunteer do for my nonprofit organization? (position to be filled)
  2. When do we need this person on board? (date to be filled)
  3. What will the experience entail? (detailed position description)
  4. What volunteer need will it fulfill? (specifically, how will this appeal to what a volunteer is seeking?)
  5. How can this position build more friendships? (if this volunteer is successful, how will it build relationships/friendships in the organization?)
  6. How does it fulfill an individual's need to make a commitment? (what is rewarding about this commitment?)
  7. How will this position make an impact in the chapter, in the profession, etc.? (very important to provide this as it is a major reason to volunteer)
  8. What type of time commitment is this position? (is this a long-term commitment on a committee or is it a short-term, just-in-time volunteering position with a fixed length of time and deliverables?)
  9. What is the deliverable at the end of the project that someone can be proud of?
  10. How will the position be recognized?

How many times do we ask our volunteers what they want to get out of their experience? By answering these 10 questions, your organization will go beyond just giving a volunteer a job.

This process will help to define a rewarding experience that will lead to a long-term relationship. Appeal to their core needs, and they will stay loyal to your organization for many years to come.