Volunteers are the lifeblood of any association. With them, the sky’s the limit. Without them, the limitations are real and closer than you might think. So if volunteer support is critical, why do so many organizations wait until year-end to ask basic questions like how’s it going? Instead of waiting twelve months to ask a few questions, why not start today?

If you start surveying now, you get knowledge that you can act upon today while the volunteers that shared their feedback with you are still serving in those positions. It allows you to reflect and adjust in real-time. You will have an army ready and willing to implement the change because they are the ones that shared the idea in the first place. If the volunteer sees that their contribution is appreciated, they will likely stay for another year when the time comes.

Surveying now also aids next year’s planning process. Gather the information a little early so you can work it into next year’s plans at a comfortable pace. Gone will be the days of rushing a survey at the end of the year and missing something in the interpretation. After all, you didn’t have the time to sit with the data because you were racing to close out the year. Collecting information is one thing – interpreting and reacting to it is another. With the myriad of responsibilities you’ll face at the end of the year, setting the middle of the year as a time to act on new initiatives can help keep your members on track and keep your organization moving forward towards its goals.

Additionally, surveying at the six-month point of the year is a great way to get volunteers to self-reflect and re-connect. Well-written questions hold the potential to cause under-performing volunteers to reconsider their level of commitment and “step it up” for the remainder of the year. While associations thrive off their volunteers, there is a symbiotic relationship where volunteers can grow themselves through their work with the organization.

Volunteers might find themselves underperforming their tasks for various reasons, whether it’s because they had a different idea of what their work would entail or would rather put their efforts elsewhere. Instead of leaving under-performing volunteers to flounder, using a mid-year survey as a check-in can help them either regain clarity of purpose in their tasks or an opportunity to move to an area they’d instead assist in. When a volunteer may have been lagging steps up, everyone wins, including the organization that may have held onto that volunteer for longer than they would otherwise.

Surveying your volunteers mid-way into the year doesn’t preclude you from fielding another survey at year-end. Both timings (mid and end of the year) can be highly informative and can even build upon each other. Asking a question mid-year (and at year-end) can give insight into whether your volunteers have noticed any changes over the past six months. You can compare mid-year to end-year opinions to see if your organization is on the right track or in need of a shift.

A year-end survey can even build upon a mid-year study by gauging what volunteers deem essential and seeing how their priorities change over a year. Moving to a bi-annual check-in for determining the status of your organization will help ensure your volunteers will feel heard and that their voice not only matters but can create physical change within your community.

Regardless of what you survey, you still have to make sure that you have thought out your questions, data collection methods are sound, and that you have a plan not just to capture the feedback from members but to ask and act upon what you learn.