Volunteer Engagement: Ask. Listen. Repeat.


Are your volunteers engaged? Are they meeting expectations? Are you meeting their expectations? I bet most of us (SHRM Chapter Leaders) have no idea and its time we change that.

Some variation of “we are a volunteer driven organization”, or “our volunteers are the lifeblood of this chapter” can be heard at almost any SHRM Chapter function, and rightfully so. Volunteers run the place – literally. Even in chapters with full time employees, volunteers take on a huge role in the direction of the chapter.

So why don’t we hear nearly as much about the work it takes to ensure that our volunteers are engaged (in other words, “are they loving the work they do”)???

Here’s a time tested recommendation for addressing just this question…

Ask them how they’re doing. Listen. Repeat.

Think of it as a “stay interview” for your volunteers, but instead of a formal interview (what chapter has time for that?), work a handful of these questions in to your committee meetings and general interaction with volunteers. It doesn’t have to be a formal process; it only takes one question to get things going.

You simply have to ask the right questions, and then do something with what you learn.

The key is to do this as part of your regular operation, not in response to a volunteer who has voiced a concern or after a handful of volunteers have quit. ‘Stay interviews’ work best when they are done proactively – as opportunities to engage people before there is ever a hint of a problem.

What questions should be asked?

Again, I recommend only asking a few questions as part of your normal interaction with your volunteers (unless you plan on having a formal meeting or focus group). In most cases, your interaction with volunteers will be in committee meetings or one on one. It would be overwhelming (and unnatural) to go through a list of questions in an informal setting. Instead, work one or two questions in to your conversations with volunteers.

Here are some great resources for “stay interview” questions. Modify them for your conversation with volunteers:

Now, DO SOMETHING With the Info

The time and effort you take to ask the right questions is lost if you don’t take action based on the responses you get. Do your volunteers need access to resources? Get them. Do they need more information? Provide it. Are they asking for something the chapter can’t provide? Tell them!

You’ll be amazed at the insights you’ll gain about your chapter operations, you’ll bring out the best in your volunteers, and you’ll gain an even greater appreciation for the work they do!


Photo credit: By Tuxyso (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


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