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Why Volunteers Leave

I administer one of Canada’s biggest law conferences. Yesterday, in response to an email I sent on behalf of that client, I received a great reply:

Hello Jessica, thanks for the email. I appreciate it. Last year was my first year at the conference and I quite enjoyed it. I came with several friends. However, this year, most people that I attended with are not able to attend. Are there any volunteer opportunities at this year’s conference? I would still like to attend but perhaps use it as an opportunity to help out if there is any help required or needed anywhere. Let me know at your convenience.

How awesome is that? It took me about 30 seconds to reply, and I was talking with my new volunteer an hour later to figure out how we can best help each other.

One of my pet peeves about some CLE providers is that they don’t do right by their volunteers, especially faculty members. Good volunteers are gifts – they advance the organization’s mission in countless ways (see my past post on Three PD Metrics All Associations Should Know). Unfortunately, too many staff don’t receive enough training in how to attract and – more importantly –  keep volunteers.

Most lawyers volunteer as faculty members for one of the following reasons:

  • they were asked
  • they see it as an achievement or form of recognition
  • personal growth
  • they want to give something back to the profession
  • networking, collegiality, support (a feeling of belonging)

And the number 1 reason most volunteer faculty “break-up” with CLE providers? Poor management by staff. This includes:

  • lack of support
  • poor training and orientation
  • burnout
  • underutilization
  • lack of recognition
  • inadequate feedback
  • perks that are withdrawn
  • it isn’t fun

These aren’t the result of any scientific or industry study – just my own observations and lessons from over a decade in PD. I hope they help make you a better volunteer manager.

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