A ‘sense of purpose’ is the key to volunteer engagement and happiness.

Getting Volunteers

Studies have shown that, in the workplace, employees who have a sense of ‘purpose’ in their roles have higher job satisfaction and are generally happier.

Let’s apply this theory to volunteers in community organisations.

Surely (I hear you think) this wouldn’t be a problem. We give our time and energy to improve the world around us. Isn’t it obvious that we are doing great work? So obvious that it goes without saying?


Too often, we take our ‘big picture’ for granted. We lose sight of our ‘why’ (which feeds our sense of purpose) and instead find ourselves caught up in the mundane everyday slog.

The ‘Grassroots Fundraising Strategy Map’ from my Practical Fundraising Handbook (check it out here) helps us to define what our ‘Key Message’ is. Our ‘Key Message’ is made up of the combination of our purpose and our goals.

To be the most successful in our fundraising, we need to effectively communicate this Key Message in order to mobilise key supporters. This includes you and your volunteers!

This process begins with defining your purpose and goals, but continues with consistently reinforcing them by your ongoing actions. For example, instead of thanking a volunteer for their help, relate it back to your core purpose. Thank them instead for ‘helping to support the school to be the best place possible for our kids’ (or whatever you have defined your purpose as being).

Likewise, every time you make an investment from your fundraising dollars, have a specific conversation about how it fits into the bigger picture and contributes towards your purpose.

Don’t give anyone a chance to forget the ‘why’. Make a concerted effort to be consistent about it. Your volunteers will experience that ‘sense of purpose’ and feel happier about their efforts, creating, in turn, a more powerful organisation.

Happy Fundraising!

Mandy Weidmann

Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun). Click here to learn more about school and club fundraising ideas in Australia.

Originally published June 12, 2014

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