The state of Colorado ranks in the top 10 healthiest states in the U.S. Not hard to believe, right? And, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index of 2017, Colorado ranks #6 with the highest well-being scores.
But when it comes to volunteering, we are not ranked in the top ten. In fact, Colorado comes in at #18. For those of you who are a bit competitive like me, it might upset you a bit to know that there are 17 states out-volunteering us. Utah is the highest ranked state in volunteerism, with 45% of its population volunteering over 75 hours a year!
The good news is we have room to grow our volunteer base! According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, 29% of Colorado’s population of 5.68 million people volunteer, giving on average 35 hours of service annually.
There’s no time like the present for us to expand our volunteer base. Why? Because we have a lot of good reasons to serve our neighbors. There are over 20,000 non-profit charitable organizations in Colorado. Hope House is one of over 1,000 non-profits in Arvada and Westminster alone. Yes, there are a lot of non-profits people can choose to give their time and energy to. But here’s the honest truth: we are not in competition with each other.
Colorado’s population grew by 16% between 2000 and 2010, making us the second-fastest growing state in the nation. We can’t afford to operate with a mindset of scarcity and excuses. There are plenty of people who can volunteer. Here is the question: is your organization doing what it takes to connect the community to your mission in ways that draw them to service?
If the non-profit sector has the mindset of connecting their neighbors and community to life-changing service opportunities, I believe we can expand our volunteer base and the rate of volunteerism in Colorado.
How can we expand our volunteer base and increase our volunteer ranking as a state?
1. Share your infectious enthusiasm and passion for the mission!
You can do everything right and use every tool possible to reach volunteers, but I promise you that your level of recruitment will match your level of enthusiasm and passion for the mission of your organization. You cannot build a community that you are not 100% excited about!
At Hope House, I have the opportunity to empower teen moms every day. I am not part of our program team, who provides direct services, but I am on staff and find ways to build relationships with our teen moms so that our mission can transform me. I’m passionate about our mission because I know the teen moms we serve – and they inspire me. My job is to coordinate our volunteer efforts, but my enthusiasm and passion for our mission comes from my relationship with our teen moms. When I meet people at church or in my neighborhood, I don’t just tell people what I do, I tell them stories about the teen moms I have built relationships with. It’s very personal. I love when people ask me what I do because it’s the perfect opportunity to share my infectious enthusiasm and passion for Hope House and the teen moms we serve.
Are you excited about sharing the mission of your organization with others? If not, do whatever you can to spend time with the people your organization serves.
2. Increase the visibility of your organization.
The vast majority of volunteers serve through faith organizations and educational or youth service groups. If you want to increase your volunteer base, you must increase your visibility where most volunteers are connected. This year we have increased our visibility with the local church by simply introducing ourselves to as many churches in the cities around Hope House as we can. In doing so, many of our new volunteers this year have come to Hope House because they heard about us at their church.
When I introduce Hope House to a church, I don’t just offer to do a presentation or host an information table at their church service. Instead I ask if I can host a volunteer orientation directly after the service. This allows the host church to support the mission of Hope House by allowing us to do an on-location volunteer orientation and training.
For your organization, increasing visibility might mean sending out an invitation to meet for coffee to church leaders, school administrators, or business owners. It might include posting volunteer opportunities in your local paper or taking the opportunity to participate in a volunteer fair or a community event. In Colorado, farmers markets can be a big draw and many allow non-profits to set up a table to connect with attendees. Be creative!
What can you do to make it easy for volunteers to find you?
3. Grow your capacity to recruit, place, and manage volunteers.
At Hope House, we offer 1 – 2 volunteer orientations a month. One is held on-site and the second is frequently held off-site. Individuals who fill out an application and attend orientation are given the opportunity to be placed as a volunteer within two weeks. Many times there are too many new volunteers for me to handle on my own. This means I have to grow my capacity to recruit, place, and manage volunteers by delegating onboarding tasks to current volunteers and giving my co-workers the tools they need to reach out to new volunteers and place them in the areas where they need volunteers.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St, Mary Love, the spokesperson for the Corporation for National and Community Services, said, “In order for people to volunteer, there must be capacity to recruit, place, and manage these volunteers – simply put, there must be the infrastructure in place to support the individuals wanting to volunteer.”
So, how’s your infrastructure? What do you need to do to grow your capacity to recruit, place, and manage volunteers?
In my own experience managing volunteers over the past two decades, I have found it incredibly rewarding and satisfying to connect individuals to service opportunities that allow them to serve the underserved and become part of a mission that is bigger than any one individual. When we do our work with enthusiasm and passion, when we are willing to find ways to increase the visibility of our organization for the good of those we serve, when we commit to growing our capacity to engage more individuals to join us in our work, it has incalculable impact. Growth is imminent!