I learnt the word 'reciprocity' from a colleague recently. (One needs to say it slowly in order to refrain from tripping over the word). It refers to the act of exchanging something for mutual benefit.
Without doubt, volunteering is a selfless activity. It is usually done without any expectation of something in return. After all, it is generally recognised that volunteering helps people build connections and provides all the 'good feels' (builds self esteem, self worth, improves mental and physical health).
That said. We are living in a post pandemic era with a fundamental change (read: reduction) in volunteer numbers. What can we do to encourage and retain new cohorts of volunteers?
One element of this (because there are many) might be how can the selfless reciprocity between volunteer involving organisations (VIOs) and volunteers be improved?
Reciprocity all depends upon understanding your volunteers (and the volunteers you're trying to recruit). Knowing your volunteer demographics is crucial. For example, younger people may volunteer to build or deepen skills and build professional networks. In contrast, more senior volunteers enjoy sharing their knowledge, enjoy the sense of belonging while also giving back to the community.
Are you recognising volunteers once a year when Volunteer Week rolls around? Or are you recognising them in-the-moment, when they reach milestones - or any other metric your organisation feels appropriate. A simple verbal thank you is often powerful enough. Never underestimate the effect a tangible (but oh-so-easy to create and send) certificate of appreciation can have on a volunteer.
For the younger generation who may still be studying, or new migrants looking for local experience, even a mum returning to the workforce - helping create pathways to employment can be important. Everyone on Be Collective automatically builds a social record which can be exported as a Social CV. If you’re a volunteer reading this – check yours out!
Volunteer Managers can strengthen the social CV by routinely completing testimonials for volunteers. Think about articulating the value a volunteer brings to a role - not just the skills they possess (mentoring, accounting, driving, social media etc) but also how they complete tasks (empathy, kindness, resilience, problem solving etc). What we’re talking about is how volunteer management software can help build a culture of engaging with volunteers and demonstrating how much they're valued as well.
Our Social Credits capability offers VIOs even more scope to create compelling programs which can not only make volunteers pay attention to hard-to-fill roles - but offer reciprocity.
What we're talking about here is flipping the value of volunteering. We want to help VIOs (and volunteers) to change the nature of volunteer conversations. Understand what make your volunteers tick. If you’re a volunteer, share your motivations with your volunteer manager. Let's make volunteering even more beneficial to both parties.