Invest in Your Most Important Resource, Your Volunteers

Volunteer management is hard, but worth the effort. Volunteers often are not seen as an investment, however by investing time and resources into effective volunteer management, the return on investment is tenfold. This results in organizational synergy. When people are fueled with appreciation and meaning a small group of effective volunteers can become an army of help. How do you effectively manage and motivate these unpaid volunteers to go beyond the tasks that are given to them?

With these principles, you can build a volunteer base that isn’t a drain on your resources but acts as a force multiplier to your organization.

1. Your Perspective

Engage volunteers as consultants, not simply as unpaid employees. Volunteers are individuals with a variety of strengths, experiences, passions and expertise. Understanding your volunteers on an individual level will help you become strategic in where to place them. By shifting your perspective on how you see your volunteers, your eyes open to the resources of skill sets available to your organization that otherwise it wouldn’t have. And by utilizing each individual with what they bring to the table, you build serial involvement where they feel truly partnered with your organization’s needs. By tapping into each individual’s motivations and strengths, you earn loyal volunteers who want to bring more to the table.

2. Your Marketing

Many organizations don’t invest time or money into volunteers. The reality is that you don’t want just any volunteer, you want a volunteer who actually enjoys spending their free-time contributing to your organization’s vision. The good news is there is a whole market of individuals out there who want to volunteer. Millenials and upcoming generations want a cause to contribute to, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. By investing in a marketing strategy through Google or Facebook Adwords, you can find these individuals. Instead of struggling to find volunteers you know, try expanding outside the box to the world where they can be knocking at your door.

3. Their Responsibility

Delegating significant tasks or projects a paid team member can be scary , let alone a volunteer. You will be concerned they may not put the same amount of care or thought into the project as you would. But when you treat volunteers more as consultants or partners than as unpaid employees, the respect and trust you have established will be returned. As you learn about your volunteers, give them bigger tasks and responsibilities.

4. The Meaning

Since volunteers are unpaid, money can’t be used as a motivator. The bigger picture is needed in order to inspire volunteer loyalty. People want to make a significant impact on the community around them but, sadly, many organizations only engage their volunteers on a surface-level. Volunteers are left feeling unnoticed and question if their time is honestly making a difference. This creates a gap between the service given and the volunteer’s true desire to contribute. By highlighting how their individual contribution impacts the organization’s bigger execution of the vision, volunteers will feel that their time spent is noticed and is making a difference.

5. Your Appreciation

Greg Groeschel, a thought leader in leadership, writes, “The single biggest reason people leave an organization is that they don’t feel appreciated.” He continues to say to appreciate your people more than you think you should—then double it. Appreciation is fuel. By taking the time to praise the work of your volunteer, you’re investing in volunteer loyalty. Our co-founders at Webconnex intentionally tell us “I appreciate you.” This simple statement makes our team members feel noticed, supported, and encouraged to keep giving 110%.

Volunteer Management is hard because managing people is hard. But by investing in volunteers, you invest in your organization’s growth. You are a leader. And whether it’s leading volunteers or paid employees, a true leader doesn’t handle everything on their own. They trust and equip the team around them to execute a vision much more effectively than if he were to do it on his own.

Have you learned any other volunteer management principles that have helped you manage a team of volunteers? List out what you’ve learned below!