Dr. Fred Herzog

Dr. Fred Herzog


The most valuable asset a nonprofit organization has is the volunteer. The search for, and selection of, starts with recruitment. Recruitment is only the beginning. The organization’s greatest challenge is the mission, yet it must also include finding and retaining productive volunteers.

Before an invitation to join the organization, the volunteer recruiter should understand the candidate’s motivation. Asking why they want to volunteer is crucial.

Recently-retired people often want to share their expertise. Many settle into a new home after leaving full-time employment and discover they still need a work-related challenge.

Who volunteers?

Retired businesses owners, after many years of long hours and daily challenges, need activity and stimulation, but only on a part-time basis. Others want to do something that is productive of positive results. Some realize they have skill sets that can be utilized by the organization.

Small-business owners have the personal experience of ownership. They usually have experience using a financial adviser, an accountant, an attorney, salespeople, marketing experts and bankers. Their backgrounds can have value both for the startup or the expansion of an existing business.

Retired corporate executives bring management skill set into a volunteer organization. This proficiency can enhance the management of committee work and service/project efforts. Corporate-learned disciplines augment operational outcomes. Corporate people are trained in teamwork.

The retired professional is a great resource for any nonprofit board. They bring the skills learned during professional education and training and often hold certifications in other fields of knowledge. Medical doctors, Ph.D.’s, dentists, CPAs, lawyers, teachers and many other experienced professionals add leadership skills to any nonprofit board.

Volunteers with people skills often find rewards listening to clients and finding solutions. Active listening is a valuable communication skill. Mentoring efforts can be greatly improved by active listening. This ability also produces long-term client success and also builds the team effort.

Personal growth

Volunteers who seek personal growth and skill development can add to the organizational effectiveness and new energy. A volunteer with a desire to develop speaking skills can be used to promote the organization at group events, speaking at dinner meetings, trade shows and venues where larger audiences are present.

Volunteers with IT skills can teach other volunteers and clients to improve their startup business. Nonprofits have discovered new volunteers often desire to do something different in their role as volunteer. It’s important to move the volunteer around with different organization assignments to keep them motivated and interested. This protects against boredom and burnout of the volunteer who needs continued challenges.

Retaining volunteers

Nonprofit leadership must demonstrate professionalism to the new volunteer. Managing the volunteer’s perception of efficient use of time is important meeting-management protocol. No meeting should be called without sufficient notice. Every meeting should have an agenda. It’s a map to follow which ensures each item is covered and properly discussed so decisions can be made going forward.

A simple version of “Robert’s Rules of Order” keeps a meeting on track. There always should be a set of minutes recorded for reference and follow-up. All financial decisions, of a material nature, should be recorded by motions and voting. Minutes provide a record which indicates what was accomplished. Exercising good meeting-management habits demonstrates that the volunteer’s time is spent well.

A free-flowing, poorly controlled meeting with no map to follow or history of decisions and discussions consumes time and is unproductive This is one of the biggest reasons volunteers leave their nonprofit. Retaining productive volunteers allows mission to succeed.

Dr. Frederick J. Herzog is the founder/executive director of the NonProfit Resource Center in Citrus County. He can be reached at 847-899-9000 or via email at fherzog@tampabay.rr.com. Need help with your nonprofit? Visit www.TheNonProfitResourceCenter.com.

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