That got me thinking...
I see lots of requests for volunteers. Some are sincere. Some are generic. Some are desperate. Some are exasperated--like it's a member's obligation to serve.
I first started volunteering in a public library when my son was a baby. One afternoon a week, I escaped from home and processed incoming books. It was busy work that didn't involve a baby. It was nice. The library branch manager loved me. The library staff not so much. I often overhead their disdain for volunteers. They said volunteers didn't do what they were told. They were flaky. I was there every week and did my job, but it didn't change their opinion. Why would anyone want to volunteer for that?
Once when I joined a genealogy society, I indicated an interest in volunteering by checking the "Yes I want to volunteer" box my initial application. I never heard from anyone on that matter ever again.
Twice I have offered to help groups kick up their online presence with social media tools and blogs. Both times the offers weren't enthusiastically received.
The next time I offered to volunteer for a genealogy group, I did so in person (at a conference) with an officer of the society. We had a great talk. Then I never heard from anyone ever again.
This should get you thinking...
Are you having a hard time recruiting volunteers for your genealogy group/club/association/society? Ask yourself these questions:
Have you determined all the different volunteer opportunities within your group? "We need volunteers" won't cut it. What tasks are out there? Describe them. What do they entail? How many hours? On-site or at home? Any other benefits or perks?
Do you have these opportunities clearly featured on your web site, blog, and newsletter? If you don't put the call out on all your available channels, you're missing out on a massive untapped pool of talent. Don't forget to ask for help at meetings, too.
When someone does indicate an interest in volunteering, do you have a process or chain of command for replying to the person in a timely manner? Are all your officers aware of the process and on board with it? If a volunteer wants to serve in a specific area such as conference planning, make sure the conference planning chairperson is aware of the volunteer.
Do you show appreciation for your volunteers? Regularly? Sincere thank-yous go a long way. So do cards, small token gifts, and recognition in newsletters and meetings.
Have you asked people to volunteer? I don't mean as a generic request at the bottom of your newsletter. I mean have you approached Betty, complimented her outgoing personality, and then asked if she'd be a newcomer greeter for meetings?
Does your group foster a volunteer-friendly environment? Nobody likes dictatorships, infighting, disorganization or preschool sandbox tantrums. If your nominating committee has trouble finding warm bodies for the ballot, maybe it's because nobody wants to deal with your group's brand of drama.
The need for genealogy society volunteers is greater than the effort put forth to get said volunteers. That's my opinion. You can take it or leave it. I just find it both frustrating and amusing that some of the very groups for which I offered to serve--and never heard from--are now asking for volunteers.
By the way, I now have two wonderful volunteer gigs in my life. Both groups had officers who reached out to me at the 2011 FGS conference and I said yes to their requests.
All they had to do was ask.