Two days ago, I had the shortest, easiest and by far, one of the most productive volunteer "ask" calls I could wish for. By way of a little background, several months ago, I had asked one of our best participants if she would consider serving on a volunteer leadership committee for our next ride event. Fast forward to yesterday when we had scheduled a call to discuss a role that seemed like a great fit. In preparation for our call, at 9 AM I emailed the potential volunteer a description of the role and listing of key committee responsibilities. Upon connecting, we had a quick catch-up and jumped right into our discussion She shared that she'd already reviewed the position, was excited to do it and very eager to help make this ride a growing and sustainable event. What more could I ask for?
As we came to the natural conclusion of our talk, she said "I'm in. The only thing I want to do is share all this with my husband and family and make sure they're comfortable with me taking on this commitment". She added "once I'm 100%, I'll shoot you an email tomorrow to confirm and then I'm ready to get rolling".
PS: She's in.
Wow! What a difference 14 years and a different industry make. Since switching from the financial services arena to the nonprofit world over a decade ago, there have been many occasions where my two chosen fields have seemed very far apart. This was perhaps the most dramatic. I immediately thought back to those phone calls I'd had as a stockbroker in the mid 90's when I was attempting to "earn the order". Back then, hearing "I need to talk with my wife/husband/partner" was considered nothing more than a smokescreen objection. It was something to be plowed through with pithy (and often obnoxious) rebuttals that are not worth sharing.
Now, I love it when I hear that a potential volunteer leader wants to think about it or do some checking before giving me a Yes. I received an email this morning from another potential volunteer leader saying that he wants to jump into the project 110%. He added that he wanted a week to double check on commitments and schedules but thinks he can allocate one day a month to the role. Trust me, if all this sounds a little too easy, most weeks aren't like this! But I'll take it!
Some work in the charitable sector, particularly around fundraising, is similar to sales. We have to make the case. We have to make an assertive ask. And yes, if a prospective donor says "I want to think about it", our job is to learn why and see if we can respond to their concerns. Volunteer and Leadership recruitment is different. The goal is to identify a strong fit between a role that needs to be filled by someone who can commit the skills, time and energy necessary. Hearing "I'll think about it" means you've given your potential volunteer something very real and very substantial to think about. Chances are you've done a thorough job providing an accurate description of the role, its responsibilities as well as the time commitment involved. Doing this paves the way to working with a fully engaged volunteer and helps you and your team avoid potentially unpleasant surprises later.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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