Motivating Busy Executives to Volunteer

motivating busy executives

By Katy Markert

IT HAS BEEN said that the only way to get someone to do something is if he or she wants to. People generally cannot be forced or coerced into performing to our expectations. Hence, the most effective volunteers are those who earnestly accept and engage with your organization, have a vested interest in its success, and see themselves as connected to its mission.

The good news in today’s post-pandemic environment is that people are tuning in to the ways in which they spend their valued time and want to be more intentional on where they apply their efforts. Volunteering, especially for executives that want to impact their industry, is directly in line with this latest trend in thought. Helping them to make this connection is key.

Here are seven practical tools to help develop volunteers – our precious resource and the lifeblood of so many associations.

1. Establish clear goals for volunteers. The ability to communicate effectively and win participation requires that we understand the goal of the project or event and relay it to our volunteers. Get their buy-in.

2. Communicate expectations. Develop a training process and/or written materials for volunteers with expectations of performance as well as how to be an effective representative of your association or organization.

3. Focus on success. Communicate with confidence the direct benefit to your volunteers of their efforts. Use words of encouragement and be positive, yet realistic.

4. Practice what you preach. Encourage excitement and interest in your organization by acting as a role model for volunteers. Nothing illustrates commitment better than a committed person. Enthusiasm is contagious.

5. Limit your requests. No one, especially busy executives, wants to feel that he or she is constantly being asked to “give” time away. Carefully consider the frequency in which you go to the same well.

6. Give honest, sincere appreciation. This could include certificates made in-house at your organization, a volunteer recognition luncheon, a small gift or award or a handwritten card. Be creative and thoughtful in your show of appreciation.

7. Report results. Communicate to volunteers the outcome of their efforts through e-mail, social media, newsletter or however your organization presents important updates.

Motivating busy volunteers is critical to maintaining a robust organization and serving the interest of your members. Use these tools to help ensure your volunteers have a positive experience with your organization and feel encouraged to continue the relationship.


Brown, Valeria. “Getting to ‘Yes’: How to Motivate Busy People to Volunteer.” American Bar Association. 2003

Raj. “8 Ways to Motivate and Engage Your Nonprofit’s Volunteers.” Donorbox blog. 2021 Reiland, Dan. “5 Essentials to Leading and Motivating Volunteers.” The Pastors Coach.

Katy Markert manages and coordinates TSAE’s communications, marketing, and publication efforts. She oversees TSAE brand strategies and efforts with all TSAE’s many initiatives. She is the lead for the TSAE website, online community, marketing campaigns, and TSAE’s magazine, Association Leadership.

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