How to Fix the Disconnect Over Volunteer Effectiveness

There is a disconnect between association staffers and volunteers says the ASAE Research Foundation report, A Holistic Approach to Association Volunteer Management. Volunteers feel they are being effective, but this doesn’t always equate with what association staffers think of their contributions. The problem often stems from a lack of understanding of what “effective” means complicated by the fact that volunteers often have a different definition of effective than the association’s staff. Add in a lack of viable metrics that measure that “effectiveness” and you can see where the waters start to get muddy.

In his 2023 post, AssociationsNow author Mark Athitakis took a look into this aspect of the ASAE Research Foundation by talking with research contributors Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle (Mariner’s primo team) as well as an executive officer of an association who recognized the challenges of an outdated system. The article echoes the report stressing how associations can improve this disconnect by delivering a sound system that provides clarity and accountability to volunteers.

“Without valid, objective metrics, there’s no meaningful accountability, and ‘effectiveness’ remains a purely subjective assessment.” Peggy Hoffman

In the end, providing valid metrics will help volunteers – and staff – recognize what truly needs to happen to make volunteer work more effective in moving the needle. And as the study also shows, volunteers want to make a difference! Members want to volunteer – want to help the organization grow and be successful – but it’s often the lack of clarity on expectations that sets up the greatest disconnect between HQ & volunteers, thus making the system ineffective. P.S. Here’s a great article on writing a volunteer job description.

*The research looks beyond the systems currently in place to help associations begin a journey of defining the volunteer systems for tomorrow—for the workforce of today. Use these findings, recommendations, and information found in the detailed findings section of the full report as a resource to move forward on that journey. Purchase the full report from ASAE Foundation. Or for a shorter read, download the Executive Summary here.

Featured Image: Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash