Guest Post By Amy Gitchell, Marketing and Research Specialist, GrowthZone

You need volunteers to keep your association humming. Recruiting them can be tough. Retaining them can be even tougher. However, if you unlock the secret to the psychology behind volunteering, you’ll have the formula that works.

Why DON’T People Volunteer?

According to a recent GrowthZone survey, recruiting and retaining members is one of the top 5 challenges faced by member-based organizations. So, it’s no surprise that the list of reasons for not volunteering may be infinite. Some common reasons cited by survey respondents include:

“I don’t have the time.”

“I’m doing things with my family.”

“I have a full-time job.”

“I already have too many priorities.”

Why DO people volunteer?

According to renowned psychologist David McClelland, people have three motivation drivers regardless of gender, culture or age.

  • Achievement: People want a sense of accomplishment and to learn new skills.
  • Affiliation: The ability to meet and connect with others is huge. So is having a sense of belonging and feeling part of a worthy cause.
  • Power: People thrive on status and recognition. They love making an impact on others and playing to win.

ASAE conducted the Next Gen 13 Millennial study to learn more about young professional association members. When the young professionals (aka Millennials) were asked why they volunteer in an association, 61% said it was to gain professional expertise, and 51% responded they participate for networking opportunities.

When respondents were then asked why they don’t volunteer in an association, 45% said they simply weren’t asked to volunteer.

“I would volunteer a lot more if it meant I was able to connect with higher up members in the organization. Often though, you don’t meet anyone except the volunteer coordinator,” shared one respondent to the Millennial Impact Project by The Case Foundation."

What Do Volunteers Want?

Volunteers want to:

  • Feel welcome, be communicated with regularly, and feel like you’re prepared for them
  • Be thoroughly trained and know up front how much time the job will take
  • Do interesting work and learn something new
  • Be socially connected with other members
  • Be appreciated and know they’re making a difference

What Does This Mean To Your Association?

By understanding what motivates people, you can assign tasks that meet their motivation driver. Suddenly, you have happy and fulfilled volunteers that keep coming back for more!


Amy Gitchell is a Marketing and Research Specialist at GrowthZone, providers of the first association management software with fully-integrated sales funnel management. Visit for a free trial.