‘Motivation is an inside job. People volunteer for their reasons not yours.’
– Tom McKee, VolunteerPower


There are hundreds of unfilled volunteering opportunities countywide – an extraordinary number demonstrating a high level of need throughout East Sussex, but also one that points an underlying issue: volunteer mismatch. So why the mismatch of demand and supply? Are there just not enough volunteers to go round?

Review your role descriptions

Having done a recent spot-check of the opportunities promoted by VCES, many adverts simply state the need of the organisation and its service users rather than being written in a way that appeals to the prospective volunteer. In fact, some roles even look like job descriptions! It’s essential that organisations remember that volunteering is a choice and, in order to be successful, role descriptions need to convey to the individual the benefits of taking part. Changes to the charity-run national online volunteering database, www.Do-it.org, mean that organisations are now required to say what ‘skills’ a volunteer would gain by taking on a particular role. Whilst not all benefits offered by a role can be categorised as ‘skills’, this is a step in the right direction from Do-It to recognise the needs of the volunteer as well as the organisation.

See things from the volunteer’s point of view

Our experience of handling enquiries from individuals has also shown us that:

There seem to be three main drivers for those looking to volunteer: personal development, social contact and a sense of doing something worthwhile. Are you thinking about these motivators when writing your role descriptions, recruiting, supporting and managing your volunteers?

Many individuals who want to volunteer are put off by the idea of a regular time commitment and the fear of letting people down (especially service users) if they change their minds on the day. So flexibility is key to these people who haven’t started volunteering yet. How flexible are your roles? Could you be more flexible?

Some individuals would like to see more variety in the range of opportunities and activities available. Can you develop more creative roles? What else could volunteers do for you? How about role-carving?

Guilt is not a motivation for volunteering and Volunteer Coordinators need to manage their volunteers
with patience and grace. Your disappointment that they cannot cover the next session is your own. Wouldn’t it be worse if they volunteered for you out of guilt? Develop processes to mitigate against volunteer no-shows

Thank your volunteers for everything they have chosen to do for you

Remember that the time and talents that volunteers have given are by choice and for free.

VCES has the expertise to assist groups in tackling these issues and maximising your chances of attracting the right people. Please visit our website for advice and support in the form of Essential Guides or contact us directly to find out more about 1:1 sessions, Volunteer Coordinators’ Forums and master classes.

Categories: Best practice


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