How to Inspire Volunteers to Deep Commitment to Your Cause

On this day of remembrance, I’m reflecting on how well (or poorly) we dare to dream and have the courage to share our deepest aspirations.  Are our volunteer recruitment efforts failing to inspire volunteers and deepen their commitment to our communities?

The Genius of Dr. King

When describing the vision for his movement, Dr. King was one of the most eloquent spokespeople in history:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

This captivating vision resonated with thousands of community volunteers, from all walks of life, who were ready to join a cause that was dangerous, unpopular with the majority public, and held very real risk for those involved.  And yet, they joined.

Imagine if Dr. King’s vision would have gone something like this instead — “I have a dream that, working in partnership with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, community volunteers will have the opportunity to join local organizing groups to mount local canvassing campaigns and participate in local marches to raise community awareness about racial inequality.  Snacks and bus transportation provided!”  …Hmmmmm….not so much.

Inspire Volunteers with an Aspirational Exercise

Through the act of service, human beings strive to become better people.  It’s an almost unconscious drive.  Ask any group of volunteers and they’ll tell you the main reasons they volunteer — to make a difference, to give back, to help people, etc.  They do it out of a sense of obligation, duty, purpose, and self-fulfillment.

So, why do we reduce the communications about our work to a lackluster laundry list description about what’s being done?  It’s time to infuse more soul back into our calls to action.  We need to touch people heart to heart.  And, you don’t need a highly skilled orator to make a powerful connection.

Inspiring Vision in Motion

Here’s a great example of how one organization, Mozilla, communicates its vision and values to the public in its manifesto. Admittedly, their goals may not be as ambitious or highly visible as eliminating oppression.  But, imagine if Mozilla were recruiting volunteers.  Wouldn’t you want to join?

What I Like About How They Share Their Dream

  • They use video and posted it on You Tube; it’s easy to view and share from anywhere.
  • It’s short; a lot of info is shared only two minutes.
  • There are lots of photos of smiling people, showing you just who’s behind the logo.
  • There are more photos than text, and the text is limited.
  • They’re not afraid to be a little quirky and real.
  • They’re not shy about sharing a big vision.
  • They don’t waste a lot of time describing the behind the scenes of how they realize their dream; people can learn more later if they want.
  • They connect their vision by making the world a better place.

What Would Make It Even Better

  • Add more about how people benefit from their service directly.
  • Focus on a compelling story of one person. Include the voices of their end-users and customers.
  • Place the video front and center on their home page.

Be Bold!

Think about what you could do to share your organization’s dream with the world.  Don’t dampen your message with boring details.  Stick to the higher message, the values you hold dear, and the change you want to see in the world.  If you keep it human and truly inspirational, your supporters will follow.

Wondering how you can create an inspiring slide show on a shoestring budget?  I’ve used Animoto to much success.  It’s easy and cheap.

With a file of about 30 of your photos and an idea of what you want to say, you can develop a slide show to music in a couple of hours for only $3.  And, it would be a great job for a team of volunteers!

Do you have an inspiring video you’d like to share with our readers?  Post a link in the comments, so everyone can learn from your example.