Wouldn’t it be great to tap into a source of free labor that is dedicated to helping you drive your organization forward? How about more than 1,000 full-time employees in 2021?

The best volunteer-driven organizations are doing things right as they recruit and keep so many dedicated contributors engaged year after year. Maybe we could learn something from them.

I was reading the national e-newsletter from one of the organizations I belong to and was impressed to learn that the 190,000 members have contributed 2,311,633 volunteer hours so far in 2021. This is across the country in a variety of activities. This entity was established in 1890 and here we are 125 years later, still recruiting new members and successfully keeping them motivated to be of service.

It does all start at the top. A strong culture of respect for the value of each person and a shared vision of service and continuous improvement are usually in place. Senior management including the owner will need to support the continuous focus on employee recruiting and retention. Managers can help justify the effort in metrics on the positive results of lower turnover, higher productivity, easier future recruiting, etc. Your organization can become a magnet for people wanting to make a difference if those at the top support the values with focus, preparation, and follow-through.

I bet you belong to at least one group that you volunteer for – it might be coaching your kids’ sports teams, working in the local hospital, or participating in a church initiative. Duties can range from cleaning up litter on the side of a road to participating on the board of a non-profit or government entity. Most of the organizations we volunteer for connect to our desire to give back and in some cases to the image we have our ourselves as Americans who have always been known as willing to volunteer together.

The newsletter I was reading outlined some of the steps that chapter leaders are encouraged to follow to recruit, engage and continuously stay in touch with and motivate their members. I thought you might like to review this checklist for some effective techniques, especially for those of us who are struggling to recruit and motivate our teams. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Nurture and educate all team members, including the “old-timers.” Avoid the “everybody knows” syndrome. Maybe old-timers can teach the “youngsters.”
  2. Make team members indispensable. Show them their contributions to the project are appreciated and vital.
  3. Find out each team member’s talents and keep an inventory up to date. Tap into knowledge existing in your organization. I can’t tell you how often consultants interview individuals to find out that there are people who could make a greater contribution, but no one asked or cared when they put their hand up to volunteer.
  4. Don’t take people’s time for granted. Make sure meetings are productive and educational.
  5. Make sure people know what tools are available to them for training. Do they know about the refresher courses that might be available or the tuition reimbursement you offer? Remind them.
  6. Are there courses that can be offered that upon completion will help the team member qualify for a better assignment? (Or qualify for a bonus or raise – not something a volunteer organization can do!)
  7. Develop the leaders and leadership skills in the organization. Do you have leaders’ courses available online, in-person, and via mentoring? Are they geared to being more effective for each of the components of leadership? Have you built accountability (360 reviews?) measurement tool into your evaluations for the leaders’ feedback so they can improve?
  8. Do people receive recognition for completing courses in your organization? (Insignia—maybe the military is on to something with medals? Titles, pay increases, etc.)
  9. Do you have a monthly action plan for retention? (I will list some ideas in next week’s post)
  10. Do you have a process for dealing with minor issues carefully to avoid them escalating into large issues? Is your process regularly reviewed and tweaked to make sure it is valued by team members? If it’s too painful for staff to do this for themselves, have you thought about having an outsider/consultant mediate these kinds of “sticky issues”.

I’ll share another set of suggestions from significantly successful volunteer organizations with you next week. Some or all of these are not new, but part of the success is the consistent focus and energy applied to the initiative.

Think of it! 2,311,633 Hours of Time Contributed just this year as of 12/1/21. Over one million members enrolled and active counting since 1890. (And to become a member, hoops must be jumped through.) Only a few paid staff members at the national level. Impressive, if you ask me. If you know the organization I am writing about, take a guess. If you are right, I will donate $100.00 to your favorite charity! (Offer limited to 5 please!)

Obviously, anything we do to recruit, retain, and motivate our human resources will be a positive for the value of your landscaping business. If you would like to discuss the value of your business, your exit plans, selling or buying another company, let’s have a conversation. It’s rarely too early to think about setting goals. Have you bought a business and are having trouble integrating it? We can help with that too.

I can be reached anytime via email: alison@harvestlandscapeconsulting.com or phone at: 224-688-8838.

We’re here to help you Harvest Your Potential!

Alison Hoffman

has more than 25 years of experience in strategy, operations, mergers and acquisitions and delivering business-to-business client solutions. Her areas of expertise include managing operations for profitable growth, organizational design and strategy activation. She brings a wealth of experience through her work in evaluating, valuing and purchasing over 30 companies, leading company-wide cultural and business integration projects and consolidating best practices among business processes and corresponding computing systems. Read Full Bio