Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Motivating Volunteers – Board and Otherwise

(Blogger’s note: Readers of my last entry experienced my first blog ‘oops:’ I posted part two of a brief series on volunteer motivations prematurely. Today’s entry is part one. I trust that my first little blogger’s break won’t be my last – and hope that you’ll keep reading. I promise interesting ideas and resources, whether or not they’re shared in the order I intended!)

What motivators drive volunteers to nonprofit service? Through there are different approaches to answering this question, two frameworks in particular always make sense to me. I introduced one of those frameworks in my last post. Today, I’d like to share another way of thinking about the factors driving volunteer service.

This model features four primary motivations:

Altruistic: Volunteering provides the opportunity to serve others, make a difference

Experiential:
Volunteering offers the chance to either learn new skills or practice existing skills

Social:
Volunteering provides opportunities to interact with (and have fun with) others who share common interests or values

Survival:
Some volunteer roles offer the satisfaction of helping to perpetuate the organization (e.g., fund-raising, policy making)

I’ve been drawn to different volunteer experiences for one of more of each of these motivators. The altruistic motivation probably represents my strongest drive to serve; I volunteer, first, to act on my values. When I think about the occasional bad fits, virtually all involve experiences that were the bigger stretches from my core interests and values. Volunteer experiences have both given me opportunities to develop skills I never knew I needed (e.g., crisis intervention and victim advocacy) and give specifically of my existing talents (e.g., public relations). I thrive as a volunteer when I can interact with people who share my interests and values, particularly when they know how to have fun acting on them. And, I must be honest, one of the reasons I gravitate toward board work for the chance to exercise leadership skills and help perpetuate a strong and vital organization.

While this framework was presented as applicable to volunteers generally, it certainly offers a useful way to think about what drives individuals to board service specifically. Actually, I’ve personally experienced all of these motivators as a board member. Did you recognize yourself anywhere on the list? How does board service fill those needs?

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