How Not To Ask a Volunteer

I got an email recently.

It was a request for me to take the president-elect position of an association which is dear to my heart and which I have been an active participant.

I replied with a “no, thank you.”

Yes I was honored. But the request came impersonally and was largely written from the perspective of the association not me … and not particularly the member. Yes there are other issues that I won’t go into here. But the lesson learned from this encounter is that if you want a member to step up to the plate you have make the request personal.

There are two aspects to a personal ask.

  1. Relate to me. Show how the request to help serves both me and the organization. Talk about my skills and the unique attribute I bring to the table.
  2. Ask me personally. That’s either face-to-face or by phone. Particularly, if you want me to take on a large responsibility, you show your genuine interest in me by speaking directly with me. And, it is far less easy for me to say “no” in person.

I won’t change my mind now but I wonder if the ask had been differently place what I would have said.