Volunteer engagement

It's possible that there's a woman who walks around your neighborhood every day, generously straightening up, picking up trash and improving things. Possible but unlikely.

Countless hours of volunteer engagement go untapped, because it's genuinely unlikely that people will contribute what they can, unencouraged.

The key elements are:

  • An agenda
  • Peer support
  • A hierarchy of achievement

The agenda is important, because it frees the volunteer up to do what's next, instead of figuring out what's next. The agenda makes it emotionally and socially safe to contribute. And the agenda lays out the road map of how we (however 'we' is defined) get from here to there.

Peer support is critical. "People like us do things like this." It's difficult enough to find the time and energy to contribute, but harder still to do it when one feels like an outsider.

And a hierarchy of achievement kicks in to amplify and encourage the work of the 10% of people who do 90% of the work. By recognizing those people as well as giving them more authority, the hierarchy creates a self-fueling cycle of impact.

Consider the Crisis Text Line. Or the millions of hours donated to editing Wikipedia. Or the application for TFA. Or umbrella organizations like New York Cares.

Volunteering is a spark that makes society work, but it takes organizations to build the support structures that keep it going.

Better structures lead to better work. People who care can magnify their impact by building structures that bring in more people who care.