Sure, he might be flattered enough to start dating us. But the end is inevitable. He won't be as committed as we are, he'll say something that embarrasses you, he'll start seeing someone else... And poof! The relationship is over. You're left wondering what you've done wrong and why nobody loves you.
Sound familiar? It should. Volunteer engagement professionals make this mistake all the time.
Oh, you thought I was talking about something else? Dating, perhaps?
I've said it for years and I'll say it again... The same rules apply to engaging volunteers as they do with dating. You have to build a relationship before offering up a marriage proposal. Court her. Woo her. Offer her ways to become steadily more involved, leading her to fall hopelessly in love with you. And then? Present her with a ring. She won't be able to say "no", and you'll all live happily ever after. Or something like that.... In the very least, you'll both enjoy a relationship that is mutually fulfilling.
Sure, there are a few dating rules that don't apply to volunteers. It's completely okay for them to leave their stuff at your place. (Think "volunteer lounge".) It's okay to ask her to bring a friend along to start volunteering. (This will not result in a slap in the face, as asking any other time it might.) It's definitely okay to talk about your exes. (What best practices can you glean from conversations about past volunteer experiences?) But the key to a successful relationship remains the same: Take time to get to know one another, to share interests with each other, and to be there for one another.
With Valentine's Day fast approaching, take a moment to reconsider how you approach your future "love interests." Are you scaring them off before they have a chance to get to know you? What other "dating" tips do you suggest for volunteer engagement professionals?