Do you rely on volunteers within your organization?
Whether you are an industry association, a charity, a ministry or other civic group, volunteers are critical to your success. Engaged and activated volunteers can be your biggest advocates in the marketplace or community. Of course some volunteers can also be your worst nightmare. Furthermore, managing volunteers comes with its own pitfalls. Hard to place, hard to fire.
But man, when they are empowered and set loose, their passion can change the world.
Building a great volunteer team can take time and effort, but is so worth it!
Do you struggle with finding volunteers?
You’re not alone. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shares:
“About 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015.”
As a percentage of population, that’s down about 4% over the past 4 years. As time becomes a primary commodity in our culture, people are more reluctant to give it up or at least more selective. And, if you end up begging people to fill empty slots, you may end up doing more harm than good.
If a volunteer feels ineffective in their role, it can diminish their passion or interest in the effort and lower their engagement.
Unfulfilled volunteers are not likely to have the patience to stick around looking for a better fit. Matching the individual to the right role from the get go will go a long way toward creating a successful volunteer team. A few suggestions:
- Create “job” descriptions with tasks required and helpful skills
- Be honest and clear on time commitment including hours and dates expected
- Share testimonials from other volunteers who’ve filled the role and the benefits they’ve experienced
Train, Connect, Build it
Once you’ve placed the volunteer, make sure the necessary training is in place. This can be as simple as a five-minute coaching session or a short handout or it could include training videos. But please, by all means, make sure they know how to do what you’ve asked them to do. AND have the necessary tools or resources to fulfil your expectations. You wouldn’t put a paid employee in place without the right skills, would you?
Equipping volunteers is absolutely KEY to building a great volunteer team.
The next critical element is to make sure you show each volunteer appreciation. You might write them a thank you note or give them a small token such as a Starbucks coffee, notice their efforts! Whether you mention their name and role in the quarterly newsletter or post a picture of them on social media, even small moments of recognition can fuel their engagement, excitement and participation. Find more ideas here for how to express your thanks to volunteers and employees alike.
Lastly, and most importantly, create opportunities for volunteers to connect with one another. If you can build their relationships with others in the community of volunteers, you won’t believe how their engagement and involvement can skyrocket! Simply placing them with other volunteers who have similar interests can be a great start.
Setting aside time away from organizational tasks to do a fun icebreaker or team building exercise is also worthwhile investment. If you can’t afford to bring in a professional to facilitate, we offer some affordable (and effective!) DIY resources. Developing relationships and a sense of community will build your team faster than anything.
How do you build your team of volunteers? What strategies are you planning on implementing? Share some of your success stories with us below or on our Social Media channels!