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The True Value of Association Volunteers

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Volunteers are the life-blood of most associations and are crucial to the overall success of the organization. What is their time worth? How do you assign value to association volunteers?

Quantifying the Value of Association Volunteers

Recently I attended the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) annual conference. One of the sessions I attended was titled “Finding the Missing Pieces to Your Volunteer Program”, presented by Lori Gotlieb. I found the session valuable for a number of reasons as I interact with many volunteers, whether they are board members, committee members or event volunteers but there was one idea that jumped out and smacked me square in the forehead.

Does your association track the time your association volunteers spend working on behalf of the association?

As an association management company (AMC) we track our time spent working for our various clients. This allows us to see how we are spending our time and allocating resources based on the clients’ goals and objectives. As an AMC we get value from tracking time as do our clients, as they can see how we are spending our time on their behalf.

Do you know how dependent your association is on volunteer time? Is it realistic and sustainable to maintain the level of volunteer involvement to maintain the strength of your association?

Some reasons you might want to track the volunteer time within your association are as follows:

  • Recruiting volunteers in the future will be easier if you are aware of the level of commitment required to perform their duties. The last scenario you want is to reach out to the membership looking for volunteers telling them they have five hours a month of work when in actuality it is closer to 15 hours. This discrepancy will make your next membership drive more challenging if expectations are different than reality.
  • By tracking the time, the board and management of the association can ascertain whether specific tasks require more staff support depending on the level of importance of the activity.
  • By tracking the time you might be able to realize efficiencies within volunteer roles to simplify their involvement.
  • Volunteers want recognition and measuring their contribution can help the organization provide the proper level of recognition.
  • Knowing the amount of time spent by a group of volunteers will provide you with insight as to how effective they are, do they have enough on their plate compared to other groups within your organization, with the ultimate goal to provide a well-balanced volunteering environment.

I was recently at a board meeting where I presented this idea of tracking volunteer time to the board of directors. The officers of this association do the lion share of the work in managing the affairs of the association. I think the board would be surprised at the level of volunteer work the officers do for the organization. Tracking their volunteer time would be a useful tool moving forward in succession planning and assessing the true nature of the work involved in filling these positions in the future.

How do you track volunteer’s time? A simple Excel spreadsheet filled out at the end of each month might be appropriate for a smaller organization but for larger organizations with a large volunteer base an online more robust application might be required.

I see tracking volunteer time as being a very useful tool moving forward and I encourage you to consider doing it for your association.

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