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The Sky Is Not Falling . . . Yet! Ten Strategies for Shorter-Term Volunteers

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By

, Mary Quirk, David Miller, Morgan Weis, and Terry Straub

“People just don’t commit like they used to!” is a common complaint of leaders of volunteer engagement who find themselves confronting the new trend of shorter-term volunteers. Many of us struggle these days with recruiting volunteers – or, at least, the kind of long-term volunteers we used to find.

Despite the shared experiences of volunteer managers facing this trend, there is little documentation of these changes and few resources on how to deal with an increase in the rising number of volunteers who seek shorter commitments to fit busier lifestyles. Is this trend a tidal wave where most volunteers are only making one-time or few-month commitments, or are organizations still seeing a balance of volunteers interested in different time commitments? What strategies are helpful when thinking about engaging individuals in shorter-term roles? Are there any pitfalls to avoid?

In a two-year initiative that began in 2014, the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) set out to answer these questions, learn more about the trend, and gather strategies that have successfully addressed the issue. MAVA authors share the results of their research in this e-Volunteerism feature, and conclude that the sky is not falling in . . . yet. They also provide 10 proactive strategies to address the trend, including how to: design position descriptions specifically for shorter-term volunteers; use technology to be more efficient; and avoid caving into pressure to involve shorter-term volunteers if this does not stay true to mission and policies.