Motivating volunteers can be a challenge, but may not be if one understands the reasons people volunteer.

Volunteering means different things to many people; however, it usually comes down to a couple of fundamental reasons. Before we discuss those, let’s consider some of the possibilities.

A. They May Have a Special Reason for Supporting the Cause.

It is possible that they have had a relative or friend that contracted a disease or some physical or mental defect. They see the struggles that their relative or friend has had to go through and they feel that they must do something. It could be possible to assist in some way to find a cure or improvement in their situation or, if not, to help someone else in the future that experiences a similar situation. It becomes personal because the impact is so close to them. It will have a direct effect on the volunteer’s organisations they choose.

B. They May Have a Gut Feel for a Cause Due Its Impact on the Nation or the World.

They have had experiences in life that made them who they are. Motivating volunteers come easier through those experiences when they see their life and the lives of others in a particular perspective. That perspective can lead them to act for the greater good. Some examples of needs that they feel must be met could be the famine in Ethiopia or Aids in Africa. Or it might be closer to home in their desire to raise money for a cure for breast cancer. They know they don’t have the resources to make a dramatic impact immediately, but with their help and the help of others, progress will be made, and success will come.

C. They Like the Compounding Results.

When people get together to work for the benefit of others, there is this strange compounding effect that goes on. First, they see that some group or organisation is already working to meet a goal. Then, they volunteer and are given an assignment. As they work on their part and complete the task, they find that their efforts and the efforts of others total up to more than just their sum. It results in “2 + 2 = 5”. There is such a great feeling of participating in that compounding to know that they are adding more than just their part.

D. They Enjoy the Interaction with Others and Friendships Developed.

The process of working with others that are all on the same page, working for the same goal brings people closer together. One can find great friends with some of the kindest people who are associated with volunteers organisations. These are the types of friends that are usually the strongest and longest lasting. Also, there are the new friends they develop in the group that they are working to support. They truly appreciate their effort and time.

E. They Love Making a Difference.

The results are what they enjoy. They can see that they can impact others, whether it is providing a repaired or new house for a family, the right medical apparatus to allow someone to function on their own, or a new facility to save a protect homeless animals. They know that they are changing the lives of people and animals for the better. The impact may be small, or it could be great, but it is an impact that they helped produce.

F. They Want the Amazing Feeling that Comes.

There is something deep down that we feel when we can provide something to a person that needs it. That item could be any number of things, such as a meal for a day, a house for the rest of their life or the chance to learn how to improve their own lives. When they do something unselfish for someone else, they are rewarded with a fantastic feeling of satisfaction. The next time they perform some charitable task, they get that same feeling again. It is addictive.

Some of they may be able to add more reasons why people volunteer. These are six that are at the top of my list. When pressed, I believe most people do volunteer for the last two reasons, i.e., they want to make a difference, and they enjoy the feeling of satisfaction. Understanding these can help in motivating volunteers.

Let me throw out some volunteer ideas for consideration.

1. Community Activities.

a. The Veterans Administration Hospitals – care for service personnel

b. Red Cross – disaster relief.

c. Meals on Wheels – for those in need.

d. Generations United – improves lives of children and youth.

e. Experience Corps – helps disadvantaged youths.

f. Executive Services Corps Affiliate Network. – services to schools and agencies.

g. Volunteers-In-Parks Program – help National Parks Service.

h. iSpiice – Interagrated Social Programs in Indian Child Education.


2. Business Area.


b. Small Business Incubators

3. International Opportunities.

a. Orphanage Outreach – orphaned children in the Dominican Republic

b. Global Citizens Network. – preserves indigenous cultures, traditions and ecologies.

c. ServiceLeader.org – working via the internet as a virtual volunteer.

Whatever reason we may have, it is worth it to give it a shot and start volunteering. We will enjoy it.

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