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April 2011 

Leading Volunteers when Everyone's a Volunteer  

In This Issue
Featured Resource: When Everyone's a Volunteer
Other Resources
Excerpt: "Attracting New Members"
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Online Training
Volunteer-related Issues in Risk Management
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Starting May 16, 2011

Trainer: Linda Graff, President, Linda Graff and Associates, Inc., Ontario, Canada

This seminar defines risk management, with special attention to the risks that arise out of the implementation of a volunteer program and the actual work done by volunteers.

Access this online seminar plus other topics and benefits by signing up for our $99 trial run.
Here at Energize, we often talk about volunteer programs and volunteer program managers in organizational contexts where paid staff and volunteers work together. Yet, a huge body of volunteers work in groups in which nobody is paid, everyone is part-time, and everyone can leave any time they want. This includes civic clubs, faith communities, auxiliaries and friends groups, professional societies, sports leagues, and so much more. We call these "all-volunteer groups." See the resources below that advocate sound volunteer management practices that apply as well to all-volunteer settings and address the special challenges when everyone's a volunteer.
resource2 Featured Resource
When Everyone's a Volunteer: The Effective Functioning of All-Volunteer Groups
By Ivan H. Scheier

Keeping VolunteersProvides an innovative framework for successfully leading an all-volunteer effort, whether it's a service club, community group, PTA, or religious congregation. Scheier challenges conventional wisdom about boards, fundraising, and membership development when applied to grassroots volunteer efforts - and he does this with a keen eye and humor.

Visit our online bookstore  for a book excerpt, table of contents, and a list of the material included in this e-book - and to place an order!
resource2 Other Resources

Skit Kit
Good Guys: The Eight Steps to Limitless Possibility for Fraternity Recruitment
Are you trying to expand membership in your all-volunteer association and feel like you need a new approach? Did you realize there's something you can learn from a college fraternity? Pay attention to the important principles the authors of this book have learned from practical experience.

Fabulous Fundraising Events
Volunteer Recruitment (and Membership Development) Book, Third Edition
A wealth of information on topics ranging from how your organization's image affects your success in recruitment to where to look for new volunteers, including your own backyard. This book offers a whole chapter on membership development for all-volunteer organizations, including how to get current members "off the rolls and on their feet."

Focus on Membership Development: Three Organizations Share Effective Techniques
e-Volunteerism contributor Melissa Eystad profiles some membership development strategies and techniques from Kiwanis International, the General Federation of Women's Clubs and Rotary International. Full-year or 48-hour subscriptions are available.

Training Small Nonprofits and Community-Based Groups about Leadership of Volunteers
This e-Volunteerism "Training Design" was created specifically to meet the needs of volunteer leaders in small nonprofits, community-based groups and other informal all-volunteer organizations. It will provide participants with an opportunity to address common challenges, share ideas and learn practical tips to maximize their success through volunteers. Full-year or 48-hour subscriptions are available.

Resources Book Excerpt
Attracting New Members

From Chapter 4 in When Everyone's a Volunteer: The Effective Functioning of All-Volunteer Groups
By Ivan H. Scheier

A long time ago, I'm told, the words "volunteer" and "welcome" were closely related. They still are, as an issue: who to include (vs. exclude) in our groups, and how to do this. It's a special concern for all-volunteer groups, since they tend to lack formal rules and structures for deciding who's in, who's out, and who does what. The result often looks to the outsider like a small "insider" clique. The insider, on the other hand, feels overburdened, martyred and lonely. From any viewpoint, anemia of the membership is a chronic ailment of all-volunteer groups, always serious and sometimes fatal.


By contrast, the case for healthy inclusiveness goes like this: When we include more people...

  • we are more likely to be truly representative of our cause or mission and less vulnerable to the charge of elitism or snobbery.
  • we have more members to distribute work among.
  • other things being equal, we have more clout for advocacy and more access to money and other resources.

...Membership size, diversity, and strength should not be weakened by unjustified limitations on admittance. The first step in attracting new members is to become aware of such limits and eliminate them.

On the other hand, hanging out the "Everybody Welcome" sign may sound nice but is, for one thing, very impractical. No group can actually afford to outreach actively to everybody. Nor should they be asked to. Rather, we should target relevant people who buy into our mission/purpose, can help implement it, and can access our activities or programs.

How do we do this?...

  • become aware of and confront unjustified exclusiveness; and
  • be suspicious of mere rhetoric, however eloquent. Look at what your group does, not what it says.
  • It's much easier to involve people if you have a real mission/philosophy and can communicate it clearly.
  • People will be attracted by the prospect of genuine input in setting project goals and by a good track record in achieving goals.
  • Try to think of your group, and also present it, as a vehicle within which the prospective member can help to achieve some desired things she or he couldn't achieve alone (and which also happen to be important to the group).
  • Offer maximum choice, within the framework of your mission, in range of job content, style, setting and locale. "Our way is the only way" is the ultimate turn-off. "Do it your way" is more respectful and effective.
  • The most attractive message/style is: "Tell us the things you like to do and do pretty well, and we'll find a way to use these talents on behalf of our group's goals." Next most attractive is: "Here are the (volunteer) jobs we have, but how you get the work accomplished is up to you." This challenges the conventional wisdom of cast-in-stone job descriptions.
  • Rarely do people want to cast their lot with a fly-by-night roller-coaster of an organization. Maintaining continuity, even on a bare bones budget, is important.
  • A gratifying number of people enjoy networking-the process as well as the outcomes. The effective all-volunteer group does a lot of internal networking, and does it well.

Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of source, as provided: Excerpted from When Everyone's a Volunteer: The Effective Functioning of All-Volunteer Groups, 2003, Energize. Can be purchased in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore at
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Energize empowers and inspires leaders of volunteers worldwide. Our specialty is creating and selecting the most relevant, innovative resources in volunteer management. We're advocates for the power of volunteers and for the recognition of the leaders who unleash it.
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