By: Carrie Galbraith, CPRP
Volunteering has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Volunteering was an expectation in my family, and those who volunteered earned the highest accolades from the matriarchs and patriarchs. My grandparents, father, and uncles were all accomplished community volunteers, and it was clear to me early on that I was supposed to volunteer. The sense of accomplishment and, let’s be honest, the recognition from my family, especially my grandmother, began to be what filled my cup. As I began researching current attitudes about volunteering, I realized that my family set me on a path of “volunteer inertia.” [i] Volunteer inertia is a concept in which volunteering becomes a habit. I have a habit of volunteering, saying “yes!” Some might say too much!
Before the pandemic, I noticed that many volunteer organizations I served struggled to engage new volunteers. We seemed to have the same few people doing the lion’s share of the work, and with the same volunteers each year, an agenda set on repeat. Even with the gift of volunteer inertia, I was becoming a bit burnt out and bored. Then COVID hit, and almost all volunteer projects stopped for over a year. Based on the US Census Bureau study, volunteer participation in the United States decreased by 23.2 percent between 2019 and 2021, the most significant decrease since they started tracking in 2002. [ii] Volunteers across America lost their volunteer inertia during that nearly two-year hiatus, and some never got it back.
AAPPR and our affiliate organizations were not immune to this disengagement. During 2021 and 2022, affiliate leaders reported a lack of interest in re-engaging leadership and committee roles. Some affiliate leaders found themselves juggling the pressures of their full-time jobs and more projects and day-to-day affiliate operations due to a lack of volunteers. Burnout was becoming a common theme among affiliate leaders and committee members, many of whom were well past their term limit and no succession in sight. AAPPR staff also noticed a degree of disengagement among committee volunteers and fewer new faces. The AAPPR Board of Directors and CEO Carey Goryl recognized that our membership’s skills, diversity, experiences, and perspectives were our most valuable resource, and we had to act fast to implement a fresh approach!
The AAPPR staff and Board launched some strategies aligned with current volunteerism research and our strategic plan, including our values of Respect, Equity, Collaboration, Responsibility, Understanding, Inclusion, and Trust (RECRUIT).
AAPPR Volunteer Pool: The AAPPR Volunteer pool focuses on the organization’s strategic plan and volunteer satisfaction. Current research shows that volunteer projects must provide a clear understanding of the project, a flexible schedule, a defined time commitment, an equitable chance to contribute, and a meaningful and gratifying experience. AAPPR’s Volunteer Pool allows members to register yearly to participate in various projects and discussions that match their availability and interests. The Pool is inclusive and accessible to all members—a perfect match for our values- RECRUIT.
To join the AAPPR Volunteer Pool, visit https://member.aappr.org/page/volunteer_pool to become a member volunteer.
Regional SIG (Shared Interest Groups): The AAPPR Board of Directors and CEO Carey Goryl recognized that the education, community, camaraderie, and resources provided by shared interest groups are essential to the AAPPR community. AAPPR has always supported regional and state affiliates to various degrees, but some affiliates needed even greater support. The AAPPR Board and CEO Carey Goryl agreed that AAPPR could help by expanding our SIG (Shared Interest Group) model to include regional/state affiliates. This model allows an affiliate to transfer the nonprofit operational duties to AAPPR and affiliate volunteers and members to focus on education and network activities through AAPPR’s resources. Preserving the affiliate’s identity has been of the utmost importance and will evolve as AAPPR members join the group as part of their AAPPR membership. Six affiliates have fully transitioned to a SIG, and several more have indicated their intent to transition in 2024 or 2025.
As life becomes full, l find myself becoming more selective about my volunteer projects and the experience I have as a volunteer. I know I’m excited to volunteer in the new AAPPR Volunteer Pool and a SIG supported by AAPPR.