Volunteers wanted: How successful snowmobile clubs recruit volunteers (and keep them happy, too)

“Recruiting volunteers requires constant and consistent actions based on positive past actions and results.” — Don Eidse

by Kyle Born

Four women visit and laugh while taking a break on their snowmobiles.
“You don’t walk up to someone and say, ‘Do you want to be a member?’ or ‘Do you want to volunteer?’ Asking is key, but you want to provide clear value as to both what and why they may want to become involved.” — Don Eidse Photo courtesy ISMA

Volunteers. They’re hard to come by, and even harder to hang on to. So how do the best snowmobile clubs go about recruiting and maintaining a healthy volunteer base? To figure it out, we asked four respected club presidents to give us their take on how they keep their volunteers happy.

Dannon Kruse, director of the Calgary ATV Riders Association:

How do you recruit volunteers?

Our primary source of recruiting volunteers is through our social media pages. We post events and shows that we need people to help with and it gets shared to our members and local dealerships who support the club. Our members are a big help in spreading the word that we need help, and dealers help by sharing our posts on their pages, therefore spreading the word beyond more than just our page.

The other way we try to get volunteers is by going to a few shows, such as the motorcycle show and the boat and outdoor show. These shows let us talk with the general public and let them get to know what the club does and what they can do to volunteer. We also do work with other groups with similar interests that help us out during our stewardships. These partnerships help us keep in touch with the community and grow with them. 

How do you retain volunteers and keep them happy?

To help keep our volunteers happy, we like to put on a BBQ after our events. During our larger events for May long weekend and September long weekend, we typically do a potluck event. These two events are our biggest in terms of turnout, as they are camping weekends for us.

Our event in September is our annual pig roast. One of our members smokes a pig for us and it is the club’s contribution to the potluck. The volunteer base that we have is made up of people who are very dedicated to our projects and are there when we need them. We always have room for newcomers that want to help us. When we get new people that want to volunteer, we make sure to find room for them and try to have a variety of tasks to best suit everyone as we always need new people to help. 

During our stewardships, we try to provide the tools and equipment required to help our volunteers do the tasks. This includes things like getting gloves for people, providing garbage bags and having some hand tools available so they do not have to bring their own. When we do our weekend-long stewardship events, we try to find places for our volunteers to camp for those that want to help for more than one day. This way everyone can be together and get to know everyone better. It’s always nice to make everyone feel welcome and appreciated when they put in lots of hard work.

Hartley Pokrant, president the Belair ATV Club:

How do you recruit volunteers?

We rely on our social media, like our club's Facebook group page, and also through direct email and word-of-mouth. Over the last few years, we have undergone major wind tree blow downs on all our trails. Posting a request for volunteers to help clear these trails was very successful and we were able to recruit over 20 people over a period of two weeks.

Our ATVMB Federation has been negotiating with our provincial government for several years to acquire sustainable funding for our club through a nominal rider contribution. We are optimistic of this going through, which will be a tremendous benefit and allow clubs to contract out many aspects like trail grading/grooming or covering costs for infrastructure repairs. 

How do you retain volunteers and keep them happy?

As a non-profit organization, we do not have a budget for financial compensation and we rely on the volunteers’ goodwill, dedication and commitment to the sport. We don't call upon volunteers often, but when we do, they seem ready to help.

Gary Hora, current president of ATVMB and president of the Woodridge Sandhogs ATV Club:

How do you recruit volunteers?

Our volunteer base comes mainly from our club membership. Over the past few years, we have changed how we do trail/volunteer work. Instead of asking members to put in six-to-eight hours of work on a Saturday doing trail work while others are riding, we now ask for two-to-three hours of work, then do a four-hour mini club ride. It seems to have an impact as we get more volunteers on a regular basis now.

How do you retain volunteers and keep them happy?

Retention is always a challenge as some members may get volunteer fatigue. Often you see the same people volunteering over and over which can take its toll on a member. We try to make any volunteer work fun and enjoyable as we can.

Don Eidse, president of Eastman ATV Association and past president of ATVMB:

How do you recruit volunteers?

Recruiting volunteers requires constant and consistent actions based on positive past actions and results. You don’t walk up to someone and say, ‘Do you want to be a member?’ or ‘Do you want to volunteer?’ Asking is key, but you want to provide clear value as to both what and why they may want to become involved. Addressing those questions first will encourage dialogue and raise awareness of the value of being a volunteer.

An electronic volunteer app is very beneficial and something that will allow the growth of the volunteer base. Having strong IT (information technology) will continue to be a cornerstone for our club and will allow easier organizational planning. Strong organizational features attract volunteers.

We host a charitable ATV Ride for Mom in support of Cancer Care Manitoba on an annual basis, which attracts some excellent volunteers, many of whom continue volunteering throughout the year.

How do you retain volunteers and keep them happy?

We make sure that volunteers know we respect their time and the work that they do. We follow guidelines, and make changes thoughtfully, through the consensus of our board. If volunteers see that their work is valued, they are more likely to continue volunteering. 

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