What the gym can teach you about recruiting volunteers  

One of the top questions I often hear is “how do we recruit more volunteers?” One of the top complaints I hear is, “we can’t get enough volunteers.”
I hear you. I’ve struggled with this one too.
In a sense, I’m glad if this is your problem, it means you are stretching to serve your community.
If we weren’t doing anything, we wouldn’t need volunteers.
Our mission is so big and so important, we are only going to accomplish it if as many of us as possible join together in the cause.  Breathe…it doesn’t matter how big or small your ministry is, calling people to join you in the ministry is a constant for all of us.

It is an awesome opportunity we have, to invite people to be a part of what God is doing in our world to right wrongs and invite people to walk with Jesus. Never forget how important and significant this mission is, as you invite people to join in.

Think about your local gym. They somehow get people to sign-up to come in and torture their bodies each day. Surely our recruiting is much easier than that! I know they’ve got guilt and public pressure on their side, but we’ve got the greatest mission in all of history on our side.

Here’s a few things gyms can teach us about recruiting volunteers.

  1. Communicate the WHY – people need to know why volunteering with you is so important and the difference it will make. Everyone has an abundance of pressures on their time and energy, and has to make wise choices about where to spend their time and energy. Show them and them tell why volunteering with you is a worthwhile investment. Think of how many ways gyms communicate to you why getting up at 6 am to torture your body is worth it – they show you pictures of enjoying time with kids, enjoying good food, enjoying good health or a rock-hard physic, they tell you before and after stories of clients – so you see the difference going to their gym cam make. We need to show and tell the difference it will make if people volunteer in our ministries. How will it further the mission? How will it impact lives and a neighbourhood? Tell stories of the significant difference that ministry and volunteers have made in your community. Help them see why it matters that they volunteer with you.
  1. Invest in their development – people stick with gyms that are interested in their individual development and goals. The most successful gyms are not one-size fits all, they have different weights, intensities and have beginner/intermediate/advanced options, knowing we are all starting different places in the journey. Gyms that show us they are interested in helping us getting from where we are, to where we want to be one year from now attract that majority of us. I’ve never lasted long at gyms without any accountability or anyone showing any interest in my progress. However if the gym or a buddy is interested in my goals and progress it keeps me coming back for more. The same is true for volunteers, are you interested in helping them develop in using their gifts and skills? Are you taking a personal interest in volunteers and how God wants to use and stretch them during each season? Are you helping people to start serving where they are and willing to grow with them?
  1. Allow for experimentation – Gyms are great at this, they offer things like the first 30 days free, free class trials, free lessons on each piece of equipment, free trial with a trainer…all with the hopes of getting you hooked on something. For our volunteers, let’s give them freedom to check-out a variety of ministries and opportunities before they commit to one schedule. Let’s give them freedom to serve in one ministry for a while, and then say when it’s time for them to apply their gifts in a new area. Let’s offer volunteers buddies to check-out a ministry for a few weeks and teach them the ropes.
  1. Sense of team – At my gym that regulars have developed a real sense of team and identity. If one of the regulars isn’t there, we’re all asking about them and miss them for that session. As we’ve gotten to know each other we cheer each other on through our workouts and towards our goals and we take an interest in each other’s lives. Kev, our “coach” see it like a family. The gym has grown by word-of-mouth as people share the difference it’s making in our lives. When you become a team, people carry the load together of adding people to the team. I think of the CrossFit movement in particular, CrossFit has become a “team” where those who participate immediately seem to identify with each other because of their shared exercise, goals and understanding of the work they’ve been through. The ministries that I’ve been a part of that were the strongest all had a very keen sense of team, that together the volunteers had a sense of identity that we were the _____ ministry team invested in this together and we needed each person on the team to help us accomplish our mission. Build a sense of identity and team with your volunteers.
  1. Flexible schedules and options – gyms, like everything else these days too it seems, increasingly let me be the one in control of what/when/how I engage with them. I pay one rate and I can go as much or as little as I want, to various class times and days that best fit my schedule. I’m not locked into only one time each day. I’m still accountable for reaching my goal (our goal), but I get to figure out how it best fits into my life and schedule. As we invite people to volunteer with us are their places where we can show more flexibility? Could volunteering be monthly, weekly, two people trading on and off, lead a whole month than off, rotating teams…? Is there some volunteer jobs people could do on our own schedules?

We are recruiting people to join not just our local mission, but God’s mission of lining all things up with His good Kingdom. So glad you are a part of the team and inviting others to join in.

I’d like to hear from you, what other suggestions and ideas do you have for recruiting volunteers? How do you create a great volunteer culture?

-Renée @r_embree

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