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Creating a Volunteer Career Ladder: Evolving Volunteers

Creating a Volunteer Career Ladder: Evolving Volunteers

When volunteer management consultant Sheri Wilensky Burke hears about an organization’s poor volunteer retention, she often discovers that the organization has not defined retention goals. “It’s common to set goals for recruiting volunteers and other metrics, but often organizations don’t consider what successful retention really means,” she notes. “Surely it is not realistic (or even desirable!) to expect that every volunteer will stay forever. But without setting goals for the desired length of volunteer commitment, it is difficult to assess if the organization has an actual problem keeping volunteers engaged or instead has a perception problem in its assessment of their retention.”

In this e-Volunteerism feature, Burke argues that volunteer evolvement is critical to volunteer retention—and makes the case that volunteer evolvement goes a long way toward meeting volunteer retention goals. Here, she defines volunteer evolvement as enabling volunteers to take on greater responsibilities within an organization, much like a volunteer “career ladder” that offers them the opportunity for growth and new experiences. “Even the most engaged volunteers can get bored from doing the same thing repeatedly,” she argues. “Just like paid staff who want professional development and promotion, many volunteers similarly desire new challenges in their volunteer careers. What better way to recognize your most committed volunteers than by asking them to take on new tasks and/or assume a leadership role?”

To read the full article

Tue, 02/06/2018
My Volunteer Managers and those that volunteer at our corporate office are asked, what would they like to do? After getting to know your volunteers we have a volunteer that teaches/trains our Veterans Program. We have Community Ambassadors, Mentors for our first time patient care visits with new volunteers and Virtual Volunteers that create our Volunteer Newsletter. We are always asking, what would YOU like to do? That has been the key for our program.

Wed, 03/21/2018
Thanks for the suggestions. You made important points, one being the willingness to customize a plan for the volunteer and create their unique “volunteer career ladder”. I especially liked the suggestion for creating a “community ambassador” volunteer assignment/position. It got me thinking about how important it would be to then define the role including intended outcomes, managing expectations (for both the volunteer and the organization), boundaries, feed-back venues, etc. Thanks for reminding us about staff. Yes, to “employee training” and helping them see a volunteer in a new role. I like how you referred to a staff member serving as supervisor and it not only benefiting the organization but also an opportunity for a staff member’s professional development. Your example from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society reminded me of a volunteer experience I had in the past. There were some of us who were leadership volunteers on various committees (membership, bi-weekly dances/friend and fund raiser, etc.). We were identified and then took on new leadership roles, a promotion, with the annual Garden Party, which was the largest on-site fundraiser. I’ve read the article two times now (lots of margin notes to myself, sections highlighted, etc.) and realize I probably need to read it a third time because you packed so much information into the article!