Kelli Cicirelli

How you ask is an important first step in attracting volunteers

By Kelli Cicirelli

How you ask people to volunteer is important. First ask yourself: How will the experience benefit the volunteer?

From civic organizations to parent/teacher organizations, groups that depend on volunteers deal with the challenges of getting more people involved.

You would think that attracting volunteers would be a piece of cake for resident-owned communities. After all, the people there own their communities, so have a vested interest, right?

That's true, but busy lives filled with work, outside interests and child rearing can often leave little time for volunteering. Yet, volunteerism is an important component of any resident-owned community.

Two men walk in street, one is pointing

Lakes Region Mobile Home Village has a volunteer Neighborhood Watch program.

Leaders of these cooperatives often ask the team at ROC-NH™: How can we motivate neighbors to get involved? The answer is simple, yet sometimes overlooked: You ask them.

But HOW you ask is the key: Instead of saying, "Hey, we need your help," try appealing to their sense of self.

Ask yourself: Why should they volunteer? What will they get from the experience? How will volunteering benefit them?

Here are some suggested answers to draw on when you have that conversation:

Why should I volunteer?

  • A challenge exists, and you are just the person for the job
  • The neighborhood will be a better place with your involvement
  • Your talents and skills are a great match for this task

What will I get from the experience?

  • You may meet new friends in the neighborhood
  • This is great stuff for your resume
  • Your participation will help create a unified community
  • You may learn a new thing or two about—fill in the blank—finances, operations, governance.

How will volunteering benefit me?

  • Your volunteer efforts help keep everyone's rent reasonable
  • Your neighbors will respect and honor your participation
  • You will help shape the direction of the community
  • Your kids will be proud of your involvement

And remember, a smooth running cooperative can be a double-edged sword in attracting volunteers. After all, when the community is being run effectively and efficiently, volunteers may be less likely to step forward to offer help. This makes it all the more important to ask.

Appeal to your neighbors' sense of self, and just ask.

Kelli Cicirelli is a ROC-NH Organizational Development Specialist.

ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
ROC-NH is a registered service mark of ROC USA, LLC.