THE GIVERS MODEL: VOLUNTEER MANAGER MUST READ
Updated: Feb 26
Recently I stumbled across a new volunteer management study for growing and retaining event volunteers that stuck with me. The study by Fujiwara, Lawton and Watt has a rather long name, “Using behavioral science to recruit and retain volunteers more effectively” or it is better known as the GIVERS study in the UK where it was commissioned. The study isn’t quite a book but at 140 pages in length you need a little time to invest in reading the entire study.
Which I did. The 2018 study is focused primarily on sport; however, it is a worthwhile read for anyone who has a serious interest in volunteer motivations for any type of event. You can find the study by typing GIVERS VOLUNTEER RESEARCH into your browser to pull up the pdf. If you are interested in the science, read the entire study. If you are only interested in outcomes read the opening section and the final section.
Typically, I find volunteer research somewhat removed from the day-to-day reality of event management. Nice to know information but not very practical. This study is different. GIVERS is not only a study of motivations but also practical volunteer management strategies. The element I found most compelling is the strategies (in the final section) work to address many of the most common trends we see every day in my work at TRS with U.S.A. based event volunteer managers.
The GIVERS six steps to influencing volunteer behavior are listed below with my comments and questions for volunteer managers.
1. Growth (G) We know that many volunteers are looking for personal growth (eg Expand Skills, Leadership Experience, New Opportunities) as part of their experience with your organization. Can you give examples of how your volunteer program provides personal growth opportunities? Do you have any specific examples of volunteers who have grown by participating in your event?
2. Impact and Increased sense of purpose (I) We know that purpose is so very difficult to measure. Volunteers often state on surveys that they want to make a difference. What mechanisms do you use to convey the impact volunteers have on their community via your event? Do your volunteers feel like they are making a difference? Can you give some examples?
3. Voice (V) Volunteers are looking for active engagement. They want a voice in the event they choose to support. Do you ask volunteers for input on future events and feedback on the immediate past event? Do you ask how volunteers would like to be involved going forward and if they have suggestions on improving the event?
4. Ease of Experience (E) How do you make it easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done? Yes, we would love for you to mention TRS in your answer. Just kidding! Actually, we really want to know what elements of online registration and the rest of your process (eg follow-up communications, training, great team leaders) make it easy for your volunteers.
5. Rewards and Recognition. (R) How do you measure volunteer participation? Which volunteers do you thank, appreciate, and celebrate? Can you clearly communicate your rewards program?
6. Social opportunities (S) The single biggest change in U.S. volunteer trends is the growth of group volunteer programs. Volunteers like making new friends and working on a team. Are you partnering with corporate, charitable or social groups as part of your volunteer program? Are you engineering new ways for your volunteers to network?
People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons. And they leave volunteer programs for an equally wide variety of reasons. Successful event managers know the importance of engaging volunteers at many different levels. The GIVERS model includes valuable tools and practical ideas for volunteer managers competing to attract and retain quality people.