New Generation of Volunteers
While younger, upcoming generations are willing
and enthusiastic volunteers, they seek different
kinds of volunteer experiences than their predecessors—ones that are less about structure, position and prestige, and are focused instead on
independence, meaning, impact and “getting it
done,” none of which are easily accommodated
by the traditional committee model.
Generally speaking, committees set their
major strategic directions and make most of
their major decisions once a year with perhaps a
mid-year check-in for adjustments. If the committee is interested in addressing something that
requires board approval, this can easily stretch
into a multi-year process, as the committee
decides to tackle a project, researches the project, presents it to the board, waits for approval,
gets approval, and then can actually begin the
work. In the meantime, the original opportunity
is long gone. The traditional committee model
is ill-suited to rapid decision-making and experimentation required to craft innovative responses
to new situations.
Committee service generally includes promising to attend in person and virtual meetings for
at least a full year. That, in turn, requires the
ability to get time off work to attend committee
duties and financial resources to travel. It also
requires the willingness and ability to sacrifice
time that could be spent on other pursuits to
committee work and travel.
Gen-X parents are often unwilling to sacrifice
family time, and early-career Millennials lack the
seniority to compel their employers to allocate
resources. And we wonder why we have trouble
attracting early and mid-career professions to
serve, when the only option we give them for
involvement is joining a standing committee.
So if standing committees are no longer an
effective way to approach volunteering, what is?
Who’s Doing it Well: Examples
of Associations Transforming
Their Volunteering Models
Changing to a model of volunteerism that is mission-driven requires a
new way for staff to manage and work with volunteers. This means new
methods of volunteer and leadership development; new processes for proposing, approving and working projects; and balancing legal requirements
for standing committees while moving to an increased use of task forces.
Here are some associations who are expertly handling this transition:
• The Oncology Nursing Society has increased is volunteer-to-mem-
ber ratio from 1: 26 in 1993 to 1: 5 today, largely because of its
robust member profiles. ONS member profiles include the standard
personal and demographic information along with data such as:
general expertise, experience and areas of interest; presenting/
publishing/research experience and interest; paid and unpaid
leadership activities; other professional memberships, etc. When
a volunteer opportunity is identified, ONS staff is able to recruit
potential volunteers easily and quickly. www.ons.org.
• The Maryland Association of CPAs has actively developed low com-
mitment opportunities that drive their mission, such as a lobby
day in the state capital, community projects, online content con-
tributions and town hall meetings. Today, more than 25 percent
of MACPA’s 10,000 members are volunteering in some way. www.
• The Project Management Institute uses a Volunteer Relationship
Management System, a centralized volunteer database where mem-
bers can search for opportunities and maintain their volunteer ser-
vice histories, and chapter coordinators can post opportunities and
search for volunteers. www.pmi.org/Get-Involved-Excel-as-a-Leader.
• The Aging Network is working toward doubling its number of vol-
unteers by 2015 by building a volunteer management program
around measurable metrics, and providing ongoing training, orien-
tation and support. www.n4a.org/programs/aging-network-volunteer-
• The American Association of Diabetes Educators revamped its com-
ponents, or chapters, shifting from a structure built on a traditional
governance model to one focused on leadership teams and coordi-
nating bodies. AADE also launched a “Get Involved” portal to make
volunteering more accessible and visible. www.diabeteseducator.
• The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition created
an online volunteer portal to increase access to volunteer resources
and encourage volunteer sharing. https://Nutritioncare.org/Chapters/