Volunteers are Amazing!
Volunteers are the backbone of so many not-for-profit organisations and ministries all over Australia. We are always grateful to have volunteers, I mean it’s a pretty big, generous thing for someone to donate their precious time to a cause or service. But volunteers can come with their own, unique set of issues.
Volunteers can be Challenging
Volunteers come in all shapes, and sizes, with different backgrounds, abilities, motives and attitudes. When someone is doing you a favour, there’s a fine-line between what can be expected and what can not. Ask any manager who coordinates a large team of volunteers, about the issues they face. The manager will likely tell you that it is like herding cats!
Paid Vs Volunteer
When it comes to paid corporate roles, it’s commonplace for managers to set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to monitor progress and expectations in a corporate role. In sales roles, corporate managers will often set benchmarks that have to be achieved in order for an employee to keep their paid job. There is a certain level of productivity that is expected and even demanded. There is usually a minimum requirement for attendance/work hours too.
But what about when it comes to volunteers? When it comes to managing volunteers, there does need to be a more individual approach, because each volunteer will offer unique capacity and limited availability and skills. You can’t be as picky when it comes to who you want on your team. It can be a mutually beneficial arrangement though. Volunteering can be a great way for people with limited time or health to be able to find purpose and add value to a cause that they believe in.
Managers need to work on Communication
When blue-faced William Wallace (Mel Gibson) gave that famous, motivational speech in the movie Braveheart, he had a passionate army who were ready to die for a cause. But he still took the time and energy to give a very inspiring speech. Managers who are responsible for volunteers also need to take the responsibility of motivating their team seriously. Volunteers are not receiving a fortnightly pay-packet, so make sure that you don’t leave it more than two weeks to make them feel appreciated, valued and inspired!
It is important for managers to take the time to get to know the volunteers at an early stage. Find out why they are volunteering. Find out why they are volunteering. Yes, I wrote that twice because it is really important. If you know why someone is volunteering, you can then try to keep that reason a valid element within the volunteer’s role. Discuss and outline an agreed level of commitment from the volunteer and outline what they can expect from you as a manager.
What Managers should expect from a Volunteer
- A Good Attitude
- Flexibility and an agreed level of commitment
What Volunteers should expect from a Manager:
- A Good Attitude
- Flexibility and an agreed level of management
A Volunteer Mindset
Are you losing volunteers? Have your volunteers started to drag their feet, acting like they are working for free?
What has your experience as a volunteer been like? What lessons have you learned managing a team of volunteers? Visit our social media profiles to comment or provide feedback on this article.