KINGSPORT — Nonprofit organizations need to be mindful of the reasons why people volunteer and should work to create a culture that better stimulates their motivations.
Megan Hookey, the vice president of the office of volunteerism and service at the AARP, brought this message to Kingsport Tomorrow during the nonprofit organization’s annual meeting last week.
Established in 1989, Kingsport Tomorrow is a nonprofit, citizens’ organization that initiates and facilitates citizen-led projects, such as First Night, the Veteran’s Memorial and has recently become involved in the Healthy Kingsport initiative.
Hookey, who joined AARP in 2002, is responsible for developing strategies, resources and experiences that help enrich and support the AARP volunteer experience. Prior to joining AARP, Hookey helped launch the national, nonprofit organization Cable in the Classroom and led that agency for nearly 11 years.
“You’ve seen some tremendous changes in Kingsport,” Hookey said. “There’s incredible energy and passion, and you’re starting to understand who’s in Kingsport. There are ways to look at who’s in Kingsport, the volunteer pool and how to leverage that.”
Hookey made reference to a recent housing and development report from the city of Kingsport that describes the type of people moving to the Model City, statistics on the city’s housing stock and the housing opportunities the city should explore.
According to the report, more than 30 percent of Kingsport’s population is over 50, a prime demographic Hookey said nonprofit organizations can pull volunteers from.
According to Hookey’s presentation, the mind-set of volunteers and why they give their time to organizations and causes can be broken down into four different types: the givers, the helpers, the joiners and the unmotivated.
Givers typically see volunteerism as who they truly are as a person; helpers get involved when they are motivated by a recognized needs; joiners volunteer when asked and do so through other connections; while the under-motivated person finds it hard to commit with time but will give through money or other items of value.
Hookey said volunteers understand who they are.
“We need to understand who they are,” she advised those in attendance. “Our job, as we recruit and support volunteers, is to not ask people to change, but how do we respond to their individual motivators.”
Nonprofit organizations are finding that the word “volunteer” is sometimes a barrier for getting people involved and more inviting language is necessary to bring people into the fold. Other barriers for potential volunteers include the time commitment, lack of request, general disinterest and health or physical limitations.
At the core, people are social creatures, and ultimately people tend to want to be around other people, Hookey said.
“Civic engagement is done around a personal interest. People look to spend time doing things with a personal interest,” she said. “If you’re mindful of the motivators and how you interact with volunteers, listen to their passion, you have a tremendous opportunity for success.”