Saturday, November 11, 2006

Volunteers must apply

A little brief in the Grand Haven Tribune says North Ottawa Community Hospital (NOCH) is looking for volunteers to serve on several committees. Sounds interesting, until you read that anyone interested must submit a resume and letter of interest to the NOCH CEO, and then be subjected to an interview.

At some point this sounds less like volunteering and more like, you know, a job.

Volunteers are one of the key publics in nonprofit public relations. The key objectives for volunteers include recruiting them and retaining them. In other words, it's hard enough to keep volunteers without making people work so hard to volunteer in the first place.

Now, it may be that NOCH wants qualified volunteers. In a hospital enviornment there are no doubt some issues that must be addressed before allowing anyone off the street to volunteer. Their online volunteer application even asks for references.

Well, then, a better way to recruit them would be to identify and personally invite or more narrowly target people who would be deemed appropriate. Issuing an open call for volunteers in the local daily and then listing restrictions on being "accepted" as a volunteer could leave some potential community volunteers feeling a little ill. At the very least, a little explanation of the reason for the rigid application process would be in order, as long as a few incentives for people to volunteer given the high barriers.

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