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What's Happening in Greater MN

Julie Vreeland

Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to talk with Volunteer Engagement Leaders (VEL) around the state on trends they are seeing and different ways they are recruiting volunteers for their organization. 

With each of our six District Councils we asked the same set of seven questions and found an ever expanding range of tactics for recruiting, onboarding, and retaining volunteers.

The first question we asked was “How do you address trends?” The most talked about was the short term or one time volunteers. Most VELs saw a need in their organizations for both corporate and individual short time volunteers. These volunteer duties ranged from fundraising events to upgrading office buildings, from landscaping to total renovation projects. The tough part was having a project for the volunteers to do when they were available. “Most of our corporate volunteers didn’t give us enough time to plan for them,” said one Council member. “We want them to volunteer and not turn them down, but we don’t always have large projects waiting for them. “

Discussion included ‘reverse snowbirds’ those individuals who go to their summer homes were recruited to do short term volunteering in hospitals and children’s programs. Operation Sandwich, for example, needs more volunteers in the summer and some found summer residents were more than happy to volunteer an hour or two several times a week.

Being creative in addressing the volunteer shortage is important in every organization. Asking volunteers about the bigger picture in volunteering also helps when recruiting skills-based volunteers. When interviewing a potential volunteer find out about all skill they may have. Keep a database and don’t be afraid to ask for their expertise on upcoming projects.

Other questions included: training programs, volunteer incentives, time management, volunteer outreach and internships. If you would like to have a copy of the discussions please email me and I will send you a copy.

The Councils are meeting again in February and March after just completing a second round of meetings last month. If you would like to be a part of these meetings please let me know and I can send you meeting information for your area.

-Julie Vreeland