OREA’s 2014 Member Profile research identified a troubling trend. Over the past 8 years, organized real estate in Ontario has witnessed a decline in voluntarism. Since 2007, involvement on a real estate board or committee has slipped from 1 out of 4 members to just 1 out of every 7. The challenge now is to renew, re-energize and re-activate your board’s pool of professional volunteers.
As you create strategies at your association, here are the 10 tips I recently shared at the 2015 Leadership Conference.
- Strategize: Bring your board and staff together to develop a strategy and refine your volunteer engagement goals. Volunteer engagement involves all the same steps as effective business planning – market research and analysis, goal-setting, resource allocation, planning, implementation, management and measurement.
- Research: Assess your data and observations regarding volunteers. Where are the gaps in your board’s volunteer gene pool? What skills and perspectives are you missing? Who is most likely to step forward?
- Define: Let people know what is expected of them before they sign on. When did you last re-visit your executive or staff mandates? Are additional responsibilities undocumented? Are there critical roles that are missing, such as responsibility for volunteer engagement?
- Underload (vs. Overload): Giving back to the profession is the number one reason cited by REALTORS© in Ontario who already volunteer. Nearly half of OREA members surveyed say they would volunteer up to 4 hours per month. Remember, however, the surest way to loves volunteers is to overload them, so be sensitive to their time limitations.
- Lead: If you want it done right, put someone in charge. Do you have a dedicated volunteer engagement or recruitment committee headed by an inspiring leader? Do you have a measurable goal? Who are the best people to help you engage new volunteers and/or re-engage lapsed volunteers?
- Recognize: A simple “Thank You” may be all it takes for some but consider how else you can leverage that recognition to engage others. A formal recognition ceremony can focus attention on current volunteers but also on the real benefits they get from their volunteer service.
- Inform: One of the most significant findings of OREA’s volunteer research is that some REALTORS© believe they lack the necessary experience to serve on a board or committee. This perception was most prevalent among women, new REALTORS© and salespersons. If it is new ideas, different perspectives, more time or more energy you are after, you will want to change this perception.
- Target: Recruitment committees frequently go back to the same pool of talent instead of broadening the scope of their appeal. Consider who has not already stepped forward to volunteer or who has not stepped forward lately.
- Promote: Prospective volunteers want more information about the opportunities that are available. Events, newsletter articles, web profiles, email and social media blasts, and even local media coverage can advertise volunteer opportunities and highlight the benefits of volunteering.
- Ask: You know how to close a deal – you need to ask! Face-to-face communication is your most persuasive promotional tool. In fact, OREA’s research found that the number one reason why non-volunteers do not step forward is all too often because nobody asked.