Regardless of the size of your community, or where it’s located, there is always one thing that every community association board and committee needs: resident volunteers. Unfortunately, however, volunteers are often a scarce resource.

What can explain the reluctance of most homeowners to volunteer to serve on the board or one of its committees? The reasons can be as varying as the individuals themselves: lack of time, a feeling that homeowners can’t make a difference, or just plain apathy - these are among the most common culprits. And while we can’t create more free time for our members, we can engineer ways to inspire them to volunteer and make the most of their time serving their community.

Here are several ways to encourage homeowners to get involved and create a positive environment for those who wish to volunteer.
  1. Always keep lines of communication open.

    The truth is, you may have a wealth of potential volunteers who never explore the opportunity to engage because they’re simply not receiving the right information. You’ve probably asked for homeowners to volunteer time and time again, but it’s important to keep trying – and to explore alternative methods of communication. For example, a community newsletter is a great place to start and a great way to highlight key pieces of information to be mass distributed. Reaching out to homeowners and asking for suggestions and ideas can also inspire people to offer their time and effort. The main thing is to keep the conversation going and lines of communication open at all times. A great community association management company will be able to offer more ideas and options when it comes to reaching and communicating with community members.
  2. Be generous with praise.

    While volunteers give their time because they feel passionate about a cause or their community, it’s not all about altruism. People appreciate recognition – even those who are selfless. Make sure you formally recognize the efforts of board members and committee volunteers during meetings, in your newsletters, and wherever you find the opportunity. Don’t overlook those faithful community members who have committed their time on an ongoing basis. They may not make big, flashy contributions, but their steady involvement is definitely award-worthy.
  3. Make it personal.

    Your community members are more likely to get involved if they know each other and a sense of camaraderie is instilled. Putting a face to the community and its board transforms an impersonal organization into a group of people whom potential volunteers can really identify with and relate to on a personal basis. Try holding special events such as spring clean-up parties, pool parties, potluck meals and ice cream socials to get residents acquainted with each other. An excellent management company will be able to brainstorm new and inventive ways to get people together as a true community.
  4. Be sure it’s real work.

    Volunteers are giving up their most valuable asset: their time. Respect that fact by making sure all of the tasks you assign to them are genuinely meaningful. Nobody likes to feel like they’ve given up their free time in exchange for busy work. Beyond that, make sure that every volunteer’s role is clear and that they have a definite to-do list. Reasonable timelines and a budget to accomplish objectives are also essential tools for success. If you need help delineating tasks and defining roles, talk to a knowledgeable associate from your community association management company – he or she has probably helped other boards in this way before.
  5. Cheer them on.

    If you’re a leader in your homeowner or community association, or even a fellow volunteer, you should consider yourself the “Encourager in Chief.” Everyone involved has engaged for a common purpose, and there are few greater purposes than community. So cheer each other on. Motivate one another. Keep spirits high – it’ll go a long way toward inspiring volunteers to stay involved, and enticing other community members to engage.
Fostering a spirit of volunteerism isn’t easy, but it is certainly feasible. Start with these five steps and you’ll see a positive change in your community’s level of commitment and engagement. For more ideas, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading community management company.
Wednesday September 03, 2014