All-Volunteer Groups

Organizations that have no paid staff at all or only a few in a main office -- all the rest of the work is led by and done by volunteers, often referred to as "members." This is a huge category, ranging from local clubs to chapters of international organizations. Includes civic and service clubs, faith communities, co-operatives, hobby and recreational groups.

21st-Century Networks, Sarah J. Butler, 21-22
Be Ambassadors to the Community, Jan Masaoka, All Hands on Board: The Board of Directors in an All-Volunteer Organization, pp. 15-16, National Center for Nonprofit Boards and the Support Center for Nonprofit Management, 1999
A Bill of Rights for Members, Bryan Leipper, The Dear Association Leader
Day 6: Find Your Successor, Carol E. Weisman, pp. 33-4, F.E. Robbins & Sons, 1998
Decision Making in Small Groups, Nathan W. Turner, Leading Small Groups, pp. 49 - 50, Judson Press, 1996
From Organizing Charity to Building Community, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2008
Leading Volunteers, Nancy Beach
Limiting Volunteers through Insurance Requirements, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Make New Friends But Keep the Old..., Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2007
The Need for Specialized Principles, Ivan H. Scheier, Energize, Inc, 1992
Officer Installation, edited by Johnnie Ruth Sturgeon, Submitted by Elaine Schneider, Collections and Reflections
Philanthropy, Civic Engagement, and the Lessons of Volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
The Power of Positive Relationships in Recruitment, Matthew H. Mattson and Joshua A. Orendi, Phired Up Productions, 2006
Sage Advice for the New Member, Marilyn MacKensie and Gail Moore, The Group Member's Handbook
Starting Self-Help Groups (Lay Persons), Barbara J. White and Edward J. Madera, eds., The Self-Help SourceBook: Finding and Forming Mutual Aid Self-Help Groups, American Self-Help Clearinghouse, 1995
The Treasurer's Report, John Paul Dalsimer, pp. 29-31, Energize, Inc, 2003
Jan Masaoka, originally published by the National Center for Nonprofit Boards , pp. 19
Comprehensive presentation of the role of a board of directors. While produced in Wales, most of the information is applicable to governance in any country., 2012, pp. 395
developed for conservation volunteer leaders who are responsible for leading groups of other volunteers, by the Federation of Ontario Naturalists., pp. 66
A Guide to Implementing Neighboring and Its Asset-Based Community Development Principles, from Points of Light., 2011, pp. 159
A series of nine books by Volunteer Northwest Territories and Volunteer Nunavut in Canada for volunteers and volunteer groups in small and large communities. The link here is to book 1, which links to the other 8 booklets of 40 pages each., 2004, pp. 40

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations-declared "International Year of Volunteers," United Nations Volunteers (UNV) conducted an extensive research project to produce this unique overview of volunteering in 80 countries around the world. Sub-titled "Universal Values for Global Well-being," the report examines the important contributions of volunteers in diverse fields such as sustainable livelihoods, social inclusion, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction. By suggesting how volunteerism can be taken forward, the SWVR also provides an alternative vision of a better society.

Download chapter by chapter or the entire document.

, 2011, pp. 148
From HandsOn Network and the Corporation for National Community Service, this PDF provides a simple overview of the tasks of managing a project with volunteers. Especially pertinent for volunteers leading other volunteers. , 2010, pp. 56
The Center for Association Leadership

Site for staff and officers of trade and professional associations, with many articles, sample forms, "cool tips," etc. Search under "volunteer" or "member development."

Church Volunteer Daily (blog)

Daily postings - which can also be received by e-mail -- with tips for volunteer ministry. Although the content sometimes is religious (Christian), most of the time the suggestions are applicable to any volunteer-involving organization, even secular ones.

LawForChange

"LawForChange is a unique legal resource for people and organizations dedicated to improving lives and bringing about positive social change. The site combines in one place a broad menu of legal information prepared by leading law firms and lawyers and specifically tailored to the needs of social sector organizations in the United States."  One area of the site provides links to free legal tools applicable to different states.

Mark Levin Leadership Articles

Professional speaker and association manager Mark Levin shares his archive of articles about membership development for associations.

National Network for Collaboration Training

Devoted to "the goal of community collaboration,...to bring individuals and members of communities, agencies and organizations together in an atmosphere of support to systematically solve existing and emerging problems that could not be solved by one group alone. Offers a variety of tools, self-training materials, and more to support community collaborative efforts.

PTO Today

Wonderful publication and online resource for parent-teacher organizations -- but with all sorts of useful nuggets for ANY all-volunteer organization.

PTO Today Archives

Wide range of articles and tips for leaders of parent/teacher groups in schools, but very relevant to leadership of any local all-volunteer membership association.

PTO Today Archives

Wide range of articles on recruitment, fundraising, and making things work, written for leaders of parent/teacher groups but applicable to any all-volunteer organization.

PTO Today "Focus on Fundraising"

Archived articles on all sorts of fundraising ideas for leaders of parent/teacher groups but applicable to any organization.

Self-Help Sourcebook Online

All sorts of information for running a self-help group, including links to existing groups and tips for effective online support.

Self-Help Sourcebook Online

All sorts of information for running a self-help group, including links to existing groups and tips for effective online support.

SignUpGenius

Free online volunteer scheduling service with a lot of useful options, especially template sign-up sheets and reminders to volunteers via e-mail and text. There are also fee-based premium levels for very large organizations. 

Volunteer Job Descriptions

Focused on officers of all-volunteer groups, from the Risk & Insurance Management Society

Volunteer Spot

Free site designed to enable anyone to quickly mobilize, coordinate , and schedule volunteers in their community, congregation and social network to accomplish projects more easily.

VolunteerSpot Blog

Online scheduling site VolunteerSpot's blog shares ideas, tips and best practices for informal volunteer leaders about improving the volunteer experience, fundraising and streamlining volunteer coordination.

Print and e-Books in Our Store

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Helps those in national or large organizations to think about how branch or regional offices can strengthen, support, and extend their reach.

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Learn to develop a dynamic membership development campaign by applying great, practical tips from two college fraternity leaders. (Not just for recruiting volunteers on campus!)

Secrets of Successful Boards

A Boards 101 book for trustees new to boards, for leaders of all-volunteer associations, or for anyone starting a nonprofit from the ground up, with chapters by ten well-known authorities on boards.

Secrets of Successful Fundraising

Nineteen top fundraising professionals clearly explain all your options for increasing your revenue and promoting your organization.

Secrets of Successful Retreats

A step-by-step guide to planning and facilitating a productive off-site retreat for boards and other volunteers, paid management and line staff, or any combination thereof.

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A how-to guide to fulfilling the role of board treasurer, written in simple, clear language for the non-accountant.

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Challenges conventional wisdom about boards, fundraising, and membership development when applied to grassroots volunteer efforts. Includes great group interaction exercises.

This series of three webinars was produced by the Anglican Church of Canada.  Given by two well-known Canadian practitioners in volunteer engagement, Marilyn MacKenzie and Suzanne Lawson, these free, on-demand sessions will help you better understand "how lay ministry is mobilized and led, and the ways that people’s God-given gifts can be best used in service of God’s mission."  (2015) Watch the sessions directly from this site.

How Finding New Members is Related to Recruiting New Volunteers
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Are you a leader of an all-volunteer association? Maybe a professional society, friends group or auxiliary, faith community, fraternal order, or service club? If so, it's a good bet that you are always seeking new members.

The problem, though, is that it's not enough to swell the membership rolls. What you really want to find are new people to give time and energy to your organization's projects - in other words, you need volunteers. If your approach is to speak only of the benefits of membership in your group, never assume that someone who joins as a member intends to volunteer!

These days, most new volunteers are looking for short-term assignments or projects. They may subsequently be willing to do more, but they are cautious about falling into a bottomless pit of service obligation. So beware the word "join"! It implies a minimum of a year's commitment, if only in paying dues. It focuses on affiliation and group identity, before the newcomer really can know if s/he will want to remain part of your circle.

So instead of looking for new members, attract people to a project your group is doing. Get them interested in your cause and eager to help accomplish something. This means going beyond "whom do we know?" Do the same sort of targeted recruiting that an agency-based program would do and find completely new folks who share an interest in your activities.

Of course you can explain that they are invited to become a full member, but do not make that a requirement to do some useful work with you on the project at hand. That way, even if someone chooses not to join for the long haul, you at least gained some help for a time. But more often than not, participation in the project becomes a two-way get acquainted opportunity that leads to greater involvement in a natural way.

Conversely, perhaps you should stop recruiting new people and concentrate instead on activating those already on the membership rolls. What percentage of your members come out to work on a project? Are willing to run for office or serve on a committee? If it's a low number, start with internal recruitment. A few tips:

  • Be specific in your call for volunteer help. Don't assume members understand what a project or role is all about, especially if they haven't been active recently. Explain it and give details about when, where, how, and how long.
  • Get your board to telephone inactive members randomly for a quick check-in chat. (Why not? You're all in this together.) It's a great chance to ask why each person is disengaged. Maybe you'll identify some areas for improvement. However, make the calls armed with a list of things to be done and intentionally ask the member to one of them. Never forget that the number 1 reason people volunteer is because they were asked.
  • At dues renewal time (and with the initial application for membership) ask more information than how to contact the member! Ask things like profession, or languages spoken, or special interests they might be willing to share. Then keep a record of the replies somewhere and see if you can match your volunteer needs with what you know about each member. This is another way to issue a clear, personal invitation to volunteer.

Finally, keep asking! Some members are simply not able to give more time at certain stages of their lives and just want to remain dues-payers. But when their personal life changes, they may feel uncertain about how to revitalize their participation. So don't write anyone off, even if you haven't seen them for a while.

Last Updated: December 7, 2016