Because volunteers are the lifeblood of Farm Bureau, it's important to understand how to create a culture that fosters friendships and positive volunteer opportunities.  Ask yourself the following questions:  1) Do volunteer opportunities allow members to learn, have fun, and make a difference?  2) Does your reputation encourage members to become active volunteers?  3) Does your message appeal to members and inspire them to volunteer? 4) Does the quality of the experience compel members to volunteer again?

Time is a limited resource and there are many things that vie for our attention.  Understanding what motivates people is key to providing the perfect volunteer opportunity.

Make a Difference--Some people are motivated by making a difference in the world.  They will put full effort into things they care about and view as important.

Social Opportunities--Some people are motivated by the social aspect of being with other volunteers.  They love meeting new people and making new connections.

Personal or Professional Development--Some people are motivated by learning something new.  They may see the volunteer opportunity as a way to become better personally and/or professionally.

If you don't share the same motivation as a potential volunteer, your attempts to get that person to volunteer may have the opposite effect.  If you try to sell the social opportunities with an introvert, they may turn tail and run, but if you understand that making a difference is important to them, you can hit a volunteer homerun!

What Volunteers Need

All volunteers need to feel welcomed.  What can you do to make volunteers feel welcome?  Volunteers need to feel like an active participant.  Make sure they have an active role to play.  Give them a fun job.  Let them lead the cow out of the barn instead of having them clean up the manure.  Have the right number of people for the job so everyone feels essential.  We all want to feel like it mattered that we were there.  Make sure the job you ask them to do matches their skills and interests.  Help them learn something new. Honor their time.  Volunteers want to feel like it was worth their time to participate.  Introduce them to staff and volunteers so they build their network.  Ask the Farm Bureau president to individually thank them. Send them a thank you note with a summary of the impact the event had (the number of people who attended, a copy of the newspaper article, photos, etc.) 

Ensuring a Positive Volunteer Experience

Take care of volunteers by bringing them food or drinks if you see they have worked long hours.  Start and end meetings on time.  Plan mixers at events to help people get to know each other.  Go out of your way to introduce yourself to new members and volunteers and then remember their names.  Recognize volunteers at meetings or in monthly newsletters.  Say thank you with a small gift or a note under the volunteer's windshield wiper.

While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Remember to provide a variety of volunteer opportunities for any level of time commitment.

The benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. The right match can help people find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance their career.

Giving to others, through volunteer efforts, helps protect mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, provide mental stimulation, and provide a sense of purpose.  Volunteering can also bring your family closer together!

Want to find out what motivates you to volunteer?  Go to this Checklist of reasons why people volunteer for Farm Bureau, and check the items that are true for you.