We all know the dream. Imagine the possibilities, the things we could achieve, the lives we could change….IF ONLY…we had more volunteers. Then the world would be in a good place. WRONG!
Usually those dreams centre around capacity building and fail to consider the relational requirements of teams and especially requirements of teams who are full of volunteers. If you want to build a volunteer team, you must drop some of your own engagement with the frontline work and invest into those who sacrificial my give time. If you do not…you will not increase capacity, you will increase frustration.
Sometimes we are just to busy and the fall guys are those who willingly give their time. Don’t be too busy to help your team. If you want to grow, it is essential.
Treat volunteers as a fully paid staff member, the rewards for the organisation will be huge. Clear job roles, clear line management, good training, proper support, annual reviews, feedback…..etc.
You get the picture, if not you are too busy for volunteers.
Having worked in the third sector for a number of years, it has intrigued me as to how different organisations and people engage with volunteers. Standards vary, practices are diverse and the poor management of these crucial people often leads to poor retention rates. A few thoughts;
1) Treat them like precious gold – they are usually the most motivated and believe in what you are doing.
2) Treat them as you would a salaried staff member – why drop standards of care, support and management? These folk are precious.
3) Offer good support – they believe in you, do you believe in them?
4) They enhance your work – yet, many organisations see them as an imposition.
5) they will be your greatest ambassadors – they have chosen to work with you, to support you and to enhance your work. Treat them well and they will also tell the world how great you are.
One issue that raises its head again and again is retention of volunteers. I am sure we can all come out with stories of the good, bad and ugly but there are some things that are useful to remember – all said before but always worth repeating;
1) Communicate expectations well – no hidden agendas or additions to the list
2) Give plenty of notice to any changes/alterations
3) Treat them well – if you are not sure how, think of how you would like to be treated and do the same
4) Honour their commitment – thanks, praise and understanding goes a long way
5) Support them – in words and actions
6) Remember that sometimes it is right for them to leave – we all have seasons in our lives, and seasons change, treat them well and they may come back or better still be your best supporter in recruiting new volunteers
7) Be a person of integrity
There is no easy route but creating a team that people want to be a part of will help retain people. These are just a few thoughts to remind myself, hopefully it will help others too!