It’s so very quiet in Baltimore today. It’s cold and foggy; there’s still some ice on the ground; and, yes, the Ravens lost the playoff game yesterday. Like many Marylanders, I watched the game. My emotions ran high and my inner competitive spirit soared. Without question, it was an exciting game.
And though we lost in the end, we know we’ll be back fighting again next year. We know we’ll don our purple and share high fives and touchdown dances. We will support our team; that’s just what we do.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what drives this kind of commitment. We see it in different forms throughout our lives. Some people are so proud of their colleges that they wear their rings for the rest of time. Other people take pride in their hometowns; even if they move across the country, everyone will know where they are from and they will never try to cover up their accents. What is it that drives this attachment? What makes us paint our faces and wear fan-staches?
It’s people. One way or another, it’s all about relationships. I started watching football not for a love (or even an interest) in the game, but because Baltimore is such a Ravens town. By learning about the game, I could participate more with friends, neighbors, and colleagues. And, over time, I’ve grown to enjoy the game for itself and take pride in the Ravens.
But if no one had wanted to watch the games, if no one had invited me to football parties, I would have had little incentive to turn on the television on a Sunday. (Full disclosure, in case it wasn’t clear: I am about the furthest thing from a jock that one could imagine. I actually chose my college, in part, because it didn’t have a football team.) Fortunately, people did want to watch and they were kind enough to invite me to join them.
It’s the same for volunteer programs. Maybe there’s a potential volunteer who isn’t particularly interested in volunteering with your organization. She’s just not into planting trees or tutoring children or visiting the homebound. But maybe she is interested in making friends, learning something new, and/or being involved in “something bigger.”
People volunteer for all different kinds of reasons; everyone has a different motivation. Some are passionate about the mission of the organization or the client population. Others are looking to develop new skills. Some people volunteer out of a sense of duty, while others volunteer because they think it will be fun. No matter the reason, we want them to volunteer – just like the Ravens want everyone to be their fans, no matter what drew them to the game in the first place.
Last week I mused a bit on the value of relationships. It’s worth coming back to regularly. How do you drive commitment? Relationships. Want a sustainable volunteer program? Build relationships. If you do, then your volunteers will keep coming back. Just like Ravens’ fans.