Empty Seats on the Board? Try These Volunteer Recruiting Methods that Actually Work

Posted by Andrea Drennen, CMCA on February 8, 2019

We've all been here before:

We were sitting in our car in a mostly empty parking lot. The rain outside pelted the windows.

"OK." my husband said, "Before we go in, we make an agreement. Do not volunteer for anything."

"No volunteering. I promise." I responded, and we opened the car doors and ran through the rain to our first meeting.

Within a month, we were on the board.

Regardless of the organization or the cause, volunteering is tough. And what's even more tough is finding great volunteers. So how did I wind up on the board so quickly? Beyond a deplorable lack of willpower, it was because of some seriously amazing recruiting techniques. 

Follow these steps to find and keep great volunteers for your homeowner and condo association boards:

1. Make it Public

Your recruiting efforts should begin long before you actually have empty seats at the table. By publicly recognizing the many contributions community volunteers make, you will build up awareness and prestige for volunteers.

Recognize your volunteers in your community newsletter, highlight them on your community website, reward longstanding service (anniversaries, award ceremonies) and give credit where credit is due at every opportunity.

By making your community volunteers into superstars, you'll not only attract new volunteers, but existing volunteers will feel more appreciated, meaning they will stick around longer.

2. Make it Meaningful

People's time is valuable. Whether you are taking away from their family time or their time vegging on the couch watching reruns, make no mistake that asking them to commit to volunteering DOES take something precious away that can never be returned - their time. It's so important that you offer a darn good reason why they should give up that time. A purpose. An end result that will bring meaning to their lives.

For community associations, that meaning should be easy to communicate. A home is one of the largest investments most Americans will make in their life. By joining the Board, homeowners can help to protect that investment, as well as helping to build up the community where they have chosen to live.

Remind them that by joining the Board, they're influencing the way the community is run, and ensuring that everyone's best interests are well-represented and heard. They're the champions of the community, and that knowledge is vastly important!

3. Define a Clear Set of Duties

Volunteers get nervous when they do not have a clear understanding of what's expected of them, and that nervousness can prevent people from volunteering in the first place. So before you even make contact, it's important that you have a clear proposition that you can make to potential candidates.

Specifically, you will need a well-defined list of expectations for board members. This should include realistic time expectations, and real-world examples of what the job entails.

4. Look for a Good Fit

Now that you've got the groundwork laid, it's time to start brainstorming your best potential candidates. Get your entire board together and actually schedule time to talk about recruiting. The last thing that you want is to recruit someone who will just fill the seat. To prevent that from happening, you need to match specific people to specific openings.

Create a list of good potential candidates and list them in order (first choice, etc.) Here's who you should be looking for:

  1. Qualifications - Certain jobs will require a specific skill set or personality type. Brainstorm who in the community you know that fits the requirements. If you have no idea, slip the question into a community survey, or make a poll on your community's website. This can be just a simple list of skills that people can check off.
  2. Passion - A lot of CAMs are wary of complainers, but I love them. Anyone who takes the time to complain has already proven that they care about the community. This passion can easily translate from 'being part of the problem' to 'being part of the solution'.
  3. Time - It's unavoidable that some board positions require more than just a couple of hours a week. (Board President, anyone?) People in the community who have shown an ability to make time to attend events or volunteer frequently are often a good source.
  4. Presence - Sometimes, the very act of showing up indicates interest. Look at the signup sheets for people who attend community meetings for ideas.

5. Go for the Ask

It's finally time to actually ask for volunteers. At this point, you're super prepared, so this should be the easiest part. Take your short list of names and start by contacting your first choice. Be sure to make this meeting personal - either face to face or over the phone. A personal connection is vital.

When you ask, begin with a brief explanation of how it applies to them (and don't be afraid to stroke their ego a bit!) This is when step 3 comes in handy. In sales, they call this meeting the 'elevator pitch', since it should not last longer than an elevator ride.

Recruiting doesn't end when you have filled the seats. You should be constantly on the lookout for potential candidates, as well as working to retain the volunteers you have now. The key is to follow up. Deliver the board member training you promised, follow through on any other promises you made, and remember to repeat step one early and often.

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