Reprinted from the February 2017 USDF Connection magazine

The perennially popular GMO roundtable discussions had group-member-organization representatives sharing ideas on everything from volunteer recruitment to member retention. Here are some of the gems.

  1. Give special awards at your annual banquet to those who volunteered three or more times in the past year.
  2. Serve refreshments at board meetings. And wine. And snacks. Did we mention wine?
  3. Look beyond the horse world to find volunteers: retirement communities, Boy Scouts, military personnel, Wounded Warriors. One GMO recruits members of a local volunteer fire department; the fire department collects donations at the GMO’s events.
  4. If your GMO board needs leadership or management training, engage a facilitator to conduct a workshop. Check your state’s resources for nonprofit organizations. contains leadership-training videos.
  5. Are your board meetings interminable? Do people have to travel long distances to attend? Try group conference calling with Zoom (, which is free for the first 40 minutes. One GMO cut meeting times from three hours to—you guessed it—40 minutes when it started using Zoom.
  6. Ask volunteers what kinds of rewards they want. STRIDE in Ocala, FL, was awarding plaques until it asked. Now it gives gift cards.
  7. Offering a clinic as a member benefit doesn’t have to be an expensive production. The Arredondo Dressage Society (FL) got 10 clinicians each to donate a 45-minute lesson, all in one day and at one facility. ADS members bid online for the clinic slots, with proceeds benefiting a local charity. The event was free to auditors.
  8. Offer double volunteer hours to those doing arena setup and tear-down, two of the least favorite chores at a show.
  9. Use an online service to track volunteer hours. There are several options, such as and
  10. Utilize USDF’s GMO resources on The GMO Handbook, for example, contains detailed information on setting up a GMO, marketing, newsletters, using social media, and more. USDF’s own Policies and Procedures, Bylaws, and other documents can be helpful models. USDF has also produced prepackaged one- and two-hour lecture programs for GMO use; download the modules from the GMO page of the USDF website.

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