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  • Writer's pictureJessica

Don't Volunteer Yet. Take Time to Decide.

Updated: May 3

A poster at Summerhill Subway Station in Toronto is in the centre of the photo. The poster is an ad for The Ordinary. The ad contains an image of two large bottles of clear fluid and an eye dropper with a drop of the fluid suspended on a white background. Above this image reads: "The best decisions take time" in black text. Below this image reads: "Don't buy yet. Shop slowly." in black text. Smaller text on the left side of the poster reads "23% off all products, all month long" in black text.

I was going to a coffee meeting yesterday when I passed this The Ordinary ad on the subway platform. "Don't buy yet. Shop slowly" it said, which made me do a double-take. I went back to read the other large text: "The best decisions take time."

I was delighted to hear a company tell me to think through buying from them. It was refreshing and it made me feel respected as a consumer. Let's face it, our demand for things as a culture has gotten out of control. Things and companies constantly scream at us "Buy NOW! Don't miss out on the BEST sale" This urgent language has driven our consumption patterns for years. It fast-forwards our decision-making processes around purchasing. What's scarier is the proliferation of Buy Now Pay Later Platforms which make it even easier to get what we want right away, even if we don't have the funds on hand.

I do not deny my complicity. If you want to hear great discussions around our collective love of buying and having stuff, and what this love means more broadly, here are a few podcast episodes I recommend:

This The Ordinary ad experience made me think about how non-profits use urgent language to drive supporter behaviour. "Give now" and "Volunteer now" are effective words that push people to take action. But those words should not exist without more information on the action's impact and what to expect from the supporter journey.

This experience also made me think how important it is for volunteer candidates to have time to consider accepting a volunteer role, or not. A few ways I've seen this "thinking time" built into the volunteer placement process include:

  • Inviting event committee candidates to observe a meeting

  • Including a PDF of the role description the candidate interviewed for to their interview follow-up email

  • Offering opportunities for the candidate to ask questions of current volunteers in the same role.

  • Saying, "Please take time to consider this invitation to join our volunteer team" instead of "When can you start?"

  • Offering to chat about alternative ways to support the organization if the candidate shares that the role offered doesn't match their goals or that the timing isn't right

  • Planning for volunteer needs well in advance of the 6-8 week minimum for effective recruitment (which lowers stress for staff partners and volunteer engagement professionals, reduces urgent mindset in our practices, and curtails recruitment communications that sound desperate)

How else can we rethink urgent language and mindsets to better support non-profit stakeholders? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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1 Comment

Jan 18

In my experience, using that sense of urgency to recruit and then taking weeks to respond to a volunteer inquiry is also problematic. I appreciated being given the questions for a volunteer interview ahead of time and then being asked to review them at my convenience and let the interviewer know when I was ready to move forward.

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