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Volunteering: Attracting and Engaging members (Part 2 of 2)

Vicky Andrew, LSCA President, outlines how existing volunteers can get more members involved and ensure they get value out of their contributions.

December 2020

In last month’s London Accountant, I reached out to members who are not currently involved with our local activities, encouraging them to come forward and volunteer. My article focussed on the benefits for volunteers and their employers. Read here

This month I am aiming at our current Active Members and Volunteers (of which I am one!), and asking how we can attract new volunteers, and how do we get the best out of them once they have come forward?

Any of our current Active Members have given years of service, but cannot continue indefinitely. LSCA needs to continually refresh its pool of potential future Office Holders plus individuals to run our Area Societies & Groups, and sub-committees. It is becoming harder to find people to fill these roles. As professionals, we have a responsibility to bring forward the next generation.

Finding and Recruiting Our Volunteers

It is not always enough to invite people to put themselves forward. Many people are unwilling to stand against an existing incumbent. They may also prefer to be asked, rather than throwing their hat into the ring.

We need to understand our target volunteer pool and their perspective:

  • What do they want from us? What are their key motivators?
  • What sectors do they work in? How do they work?
  • How will we reach them?
  • How do they live their lives? Is there competition for volunteer time from other organisations?

We need to ensure that the following are clearly articulated:

  • Committee terms of reference and strategy,
  • Roles and responsibilities that need to be filled,
  • Skills, knowledge and experience required,
  • Time commitment required.

We need to review committee membership regularly (6-12 months) to identify gaps in skills, knowledge, experience and diversity, being aware of unconscious bias and similarity bias.

We may need to influence and persuade people to come on board, including anticipating barriers, which might include:

  • Lack of time – which can be addressed by highlighting the benefits (see previous article).
  • Lack of role models for people from minorities, who do not want to feel they are being used to tick a box; it’s hard being the only one.

A survey on methods of recruiting committee members within ICAEW and District Societies gave the following results:

  • 68.7% Direct approach (from office holder, other committee member or ICAEW staff) 
  • 18.8% Put themselves forward
  • 12.5% Other (not advertising).

We need to use multiple channels to reach the potential pool. Most committee members believe they were recruited because of their experience.

Looking After Our Volunteers

Induction:

  • Give new volunteers the chance to meet other committee members before they attend their first meeting.
  • Share with new volunteers the committee’s purpose, strategy and planned activities.
  • Explain to new volunteers the resources and constraints of the committee, key processes and the relationship with ICAEW.
  • Take time to understand a new volunteer’s preferences in terms of meeting times and formats, and modes of communication.
  • Make clear the expected length of tenure and explain the processes for reappointment and retirement. Most volunteers do not have a planned length of tenure when they join. Have a conversation with those near the end of their tenure.
  • Take account of diversity, contribution and strategy when deciding whether to reappoint. 

Getting and Keeping Volunteers Engaged

  • Do they have a sense of purpose? Do they understand the impact of the committee’s activities on local membership and businesses; the wider profession, economy and community? Do they understand the purpose of a specific task or event?
  • Have an articulated strategy which is understood by all members and link it to specific events, activities and actions. 
  • Evaluate both committee and individual contributions.
  • Regularly assess the organisation’s progress against strategy, taking corrective action where required.
  • Look outside our own organisation to ensure that we adjust and evolve as required.
  • Do volunteers feel appreciated? Give regular recognition, appreciation and thanks.
  • Are they clear about what value they add? Assess progress, enable individuals to adjust and evolve. Ask if they would recommend serving to others.
  • Provide support to ensure that volunteers do not feel under pressure to work for free (e.g. by doing presentations which they would normally do as part of their “day job”).  

I welcome feedback from our members, on this or any topic. Please email me at president.london@icaew.com

London Accountant

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