Many non-profit organizations rely heavily on volunteers simply because they don’t have the budget to hire a large number of staff.
Without these volunteers showing up to do basic tasks, the operation would not function.
Anyone working with volunteers knows that managing them is a little different than managing employees.
There are basically four areas to consider —motivation, role definition, feedback and appreciation.
The first of these, personal motivation, is critical to understand.
When there is no paycheque involved it’s fascinating to explore why people choose to give their time freely and to whom they choose to dedicate their efforts.
Some key motivators for volunteers are the chance to use one’s skills in a different setting, or to learn new ones; regular social interaction; and giving back to an organization that serves a good cause.
Understanding which one of these is the key driver for each volunteer makes it easier to match them with the right tasks.
Next is role definition for volunteers, individually and in relation to paid staff.
Volunteers want to know exactly what they are being asked to do and how their work complements that of employees and other volunteers as well.
Orientating them to the workplace, to the organization’s mission and mandate will help volunteers see how their tasks fit into the bigger picture.
Third, volunteers, just like employees, need regular feedback on their work. Are they doing it correctly, as expected and in a timely manner?
Whether or not skills training is required, all volunteers benefit from learning the organization’s internal processes, policies and protocol.
Finally, expressing sincere gratitude for volunteer efforts is a simple yet powerful gesture that builds goodwill and does wonders for volunteer retention.
Showing appreciation can take many forms and needn’t be showy.
A simple thank-you is often enough; the key is to make it a regular occurrence.
Volunteers are more than just warm bodies that show up to help ease the workload of paid staff.
They are people who choose to give their time freely for their own personal reasons.
Volunteers have the potential to be an organization’s proudest ambassadors in the community so when their efforts are well utilized and appreciated by an organization, the mutual benefits are significant.