First of all, THANK YOU! For being the leader that you are. It does not matter what capacity you are leading in, if you are leading to the best of your ability, that’s what counts. True leadership starts in the heart and works its way outward. With the many pressures we face as leaders, we cannot crumble. We must lead and lead strong! Managing paid staff is hard enough, imagine leading unpaid volunteers. However, don’t let that deter you from reaching your goals. There is much reward and beauty when a team of individuals coordinate efforts to fulfill a vision.
Here are 5 tips for leading and keeping your volunteers
Be humble aka Nice – Serve your people, help them out sometimes, and get your hands dirty. While volunteers are serving others, they subconsciously carry a desire to be served. Being served empowers them to work more effectively and enthusiastically because they will begin to feel and know that they are not beneath you. This will boost confidence, performance, and commitment.
Keep it Relational – Relationship is by far the most effective way into anyone’s heart, not food LOL. People desire to be engaged in conversation. Use every opportunity you have to build a relationship with your volunteer staff. You do not have to dig into anyone’s personal life but you can show genuine care and concern. Initiate conversations by asking questions that are not related to the job. Make it personal, how are your kids, what are their ages, doing anything special for the holidays, how long do you have left in school, are you needing help? Remember, you must keep a balance between being professional and casual, however, that should not stop you from getting to know the people who help carry out your vision.
Listen to their needs – Bottom line is, they have a voice. As you tenaciously carry out your role of managing, delegating and coordinating your staff, don’t forget to listen to them. They may have needs, requests, suggestions, and concerns that you need to address. While you may not be able to accommodate every need, you want to ensure that they understand that you have heard them and that you care. One of the ways to validate those feelings is by showing them that you are taking down notes while they speak, give eye contact and repeat to them what you are hearing them say. Be genuine about it and don’t forget to follow up with your people, individually or corporately.
Recognize their efforts – The worse feeling that any paid or unpaid staff can feel is that of unappreciated. We all can admit that we have felt unappreciated at some point in our lives. Volunteers fall into a special bracket. Do you know what that is? Easy, we don’t pay them! Recognizing their efforts is the least we as leaders can do to show appreciation and genuine care. While some individuals seem to be more gifted than others, we can still find positive qualities in others to admire and recognize. Some of these qualities are but not limited to the following;
Punctuality – “thank you for always being on time”
Hospitality – “thank you for always being so smiley and cheerful”
Physical appearance – “thank you for always dressing up and representing”
Accountability – “thank you for always calling ahead when you are going to be late or absent”
Encouragement – “thank you for keeping the team together and always encouraging others to keep going”
Last one out- “thank you for always making sure things are taken care of when everyone leaves”
These are just a few lines that you can begin using, practice, practice, practice! Start a chain reaction, find other qualities to recognize and hype up your team. Again, just be genuine about it.
Have fun together – Enjoy the journey together. Life is hard enough and we don’t want to be in environments that are toxic or stressful. Sometimes we just need to forget all of the rigid protocols and systems that we put in place and turn the music on and get the job done. My point is, have lots of fun with your team. Create memories, take pictures, laugh hard and do them all over again. There comes a time when life throws us lemonades and we have to find ways to make lemonade with them. That’s easier said than done. Let’s create memories to reminisce on when those days come.
Remember, two heads are better than one, for there will always be a greater reward. Don’t waste your time and the efforts of others; let’s do this the right way.
~A little side note~
After you have tried all five of the tips above, I suggest you try them over and over and over again until it becomes who you are as a leader. When these traits and qualities begin to flow and not feel forced, others will notice and there comes your method of duplication. #DuplicateYourself
I have worked with Volunteers for a number of years. The experiences were not always great but always very rewarding. What I enjoyed most, is the many lessons learned as an individual. I soon discovered that true leadership lies on the inside. They are the individuals who bare the embarrassments, critics, work without titles, endure the gossip and still get the job done while loving and building others. Their loyalty is not of words but of heart, (Kurline Speaks). We never stop learning and growing. Seeking ways to become better is always a great sign that you value what you do. On that note, let me share with you what can become a game changer for you.
I have been receiving empowering emails from Cory Lebovitz, on Volunteerism and it’s really been an eye-opener for me. These resources have helped me stay the course throughout the years.
Check him out for more ideas on how to develop and keep your volunteers coming back.