Working with volunteers involves different dynamics than working with paid employees. With a paid employee, there are financial and career ramifications for doing the job well. With a volunteer, those motivations do not exist. Instead, the volunteer is motivated by a belief in the organization and the personal satisfaction of a job well done. Conversely, if volunteers become offended or dissatisfied, they can walk away without suffering any personal consequences. Here are four essential guidelines for leading the volunteers within your organization:
1. Convey a clear vision. For a volunteer to believe in your organization, you must clearly communicate why your organization exists. Talk about what has already been accomplished and about future goals. Describe the charitable benefits your organization offers to the community and to the world. When volunteers understand and embrace your vision, they will stop at nothing to see it accomplished.
2. Have defined expectations. No one enjoys doing a job without knowing what is expected of him or her. This includes volunteers. The volunteer positions within your organization or charity should have specific parameters that guide your volunteers. Volunteers can exceed those parameters, but they must first be able to identify them.
3. Express gratitude frequently. Even the most devoted volunteers can become weary of serving. When this happens, a simple "thank you" from you can be the shot in the arm that reenergizes them. Make expressions of gratitude a regular part your job. Find ways to say "thanks" in both formal and informal settings, taking advantage of email, cards, and conversations.
4. Solicit feedback. Provide ways for your volunteers to have input into your organization. If you do, you may discover new and better ways to accomplish your goals while improving the work conditions and morale of volunteers. From providing a suggestion box to conducting annual evaluations with your volunteers, you can allow ways for them to actively share in your dream.
By valuing your volunteers and communicating clearly with them, you can create an environment where they thrive. Then, instead of having a revolving door of volunteers, you will experience a team of volunteers that work together toward shared goals.
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