Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Category: Volunteerism (page 1 of 3)

The Power of Volunteer Feedback

All volunteer leaders, whether church, nonprofit, or business, dread the call, text, or email from a volunteer explaining they need a break and thus are stepping down. Nothing puts the week in chaos like locating a new volunteer and shuffling tasks to make it until one is found.  Plus, many of us are close to our volunteers and it hurts to see them go, even if it is for a short time. We invest in them, pray with them, do life with them, and then we get the news something has come up and now we are left dealing with the loss in more ways than one.

After reading Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Shelia Heen, I have become much more interested and intentional in finding out what my leaders and volunteers are thing and feeling before it becomes so overwhelming they have no other options than to quit. I have heard it said, it takes less time, money, and energy to invest in volunteers you already have than acquiring new volunteers. Nevertheless, we invest so much in finding new ones, we may neglect our best asset, our current volunteers.

Therefore, here are THREE opportunities to gain valuable feedback from your volunteer team before getting the dreaded “need a break” conversation.


When it comes to our personal health, physicians have a baseline of what is adequate for our age, race, height, etc. This baseline is utilized to help us gain better health. Obviously, each of us is unique so the baseline is simply a starting point. With volunteers, establishing a baseline of what is going well, what is not so great, and overall improvement is vital.

Creating a survey that all volunteers fill out regularly helps you monitor their health as well as the organization’s health. Surveys can easily be made in Google Docs or through companies like Surveymonkey or Constant Contact. Each organization is different and will establish certain baselines matching the company’s mission, vision, values, and strategies.

To make sure the feedback is coming in regularly, chose different groups to solicit at different times. For example, if you have 6 teams, survey each group every other month, so every other month you are getting some type of feedback. This helps your organization also make quarterly tweaks instead of waiting each year to try and make changes. In our rapidly changing and overly connected culture, change must happen regularly to keep up and stay relevant. This becomes especially true of events your organization or church put on regularly/yearly.


I know this one seems so basic when we are discussing feedback. Yet, so many events come and go and solid, constructive feedback is never gained. Even when it is gained, it is often filed away and not acted upon. So here are a few thoughts here.

First, event when two events are very different, the feedback from one can make the other better. Maybe the past event had great feedback on the check in process, so the next event can apply the feedback and make their process that much better. Too often, this info can be kept to only one team, when there is dysfunction in the organization. Make sure to have feedback shared with all teams involved and build a culture of trust and sharing (although that topic is for another post).

Second, volunteers feel so much more involved with the process when they are asked their advice. The event may have been planned by a team of paid leaders and a few volunteers. Feedback after the event can have all involved partake. Now, even the volunteer who was part of clean up or takedown (who probably was there the entire event) can provide insight and constructive criticism. Talk about buy in form the top down! And it can be as easy as opening the door and asking for help…for feedback.

Finally, often during the feedback process, you will find a new leader. I have read surveys and found some amazing and stute observations. I find myself saying, this person needs to be leading. It is another arrow in the leaders quiver of finding new and valuable leadership among their volunteer teams. Again, a lesson for another post to fully explain, but the leader reading feedback must also be secure and understand the feedback is not against them but making the organization and the event better!


Finally, of the big three, this one is the most advantageous. This feedback needs to be done, not through emails or survey forms, but through personal meetings of small groups of leaders and volunteers. Most leaders are used to brainstorming meetings, so many of these sessions can have a part added where culture, events,  values and actions can be addressed and ideas executed to fix issues and make them better.

Also, small groups of selected people is a way to balance out the large scale surveys to everyone and anyone.  It is a way of having not just the 30,000 foot view, but to come down to those in the trenches and getting feedback from those closest  to the issues at hand. Balance is advantageous in any endeavour.

These small groups, mixed with paid and unpaid participants, provide some of the most valuable feedback an organization can receive. If the organization is only being moved along by the paid leaders, volunteers soon figure this out and can feel used. I know I have been careful to include volunteers in all areas I have led, because I could not have achieved what had been done without those volunteers. Especially in churches, there are always more volunteers than paid staff. Therefore, volunteer must play a crucial role in planning the life and activities of the church. In nonprofits, the same can be said.

Obviously there can be many more ideas on obtaining needed and healthy feedback. But these three cannot, at all cost, be avoided. So what are some of your ideas on gaining feedback?

Feel free to share with us all so we all grow and get better together? (See what I did there? Asking for feedback.) 😉


*Note: The genesis of my thoughts here came after reading, SMART Volunteer Management by Patricia Lotich

The Cause Within You: A Short Review


Barnett, Matthew. The Cause within You: Finding the One Great Thing You Were Created to Do in This World. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2011. 240pp. $14.99.

I am probably a bit biased here, but I have known and have had the privilege of being around Matthew Barnett and doing mission’s work at the LA Dream Center for many years now. If you have ever been around Matthew you know it can be an intoxicating experience of cause-drivenness and passion for the least of these all wrapped up int a fireball of a guy! He truly is the Master of Misfits and the Champion of Causes in this generation. Just knowing him has made me more aware of Jesus calling us to serve the least of these, the forgotten, the hurting, the destitute, and poor, tired, and the hungry.

In The Cause within You, Barnett urges readers to see that God creates us to do great things for his name and his kingdom. By sharing his story in the beginning and weaving it in and out of the rest of the chapters, he leads a reader through an inspirational ride of Scripture, reflection, and challenges that will move the reader from passive pew sitter to passionate pursuer of God dreams! Matthew urges readers that if God can use him in great ways, he can use anyone he chooses. It simply takes faith, and truly that is the crux. Faith inside a person may drive their thinking and activities, but the one’s looking at the faithful from the outside think they have gone crazy.

Well, maybe it does take a bit of craziness to do big God-sized things. Click To Tweet

Just saying. 🙂

The chapters are each written in a manner that will help you process living out a God-sized cause. This type of cause is more than a vocation or occupation. It drives you to get out of bed early and go to bed late…and do it over and over again. You will have to stand up to persecution and pushback, sometimes even from close friends and the hardest of all – family. Through all of this attitude is everything. How you talk to those who follow you, those who persecute you, those you serve, and those you wish to impact matters more than any other single trait. Maxwell once said attitude is everything to the successful, and Matthew Barnett is proof in the pudding! His dream was not an easy road, but the right attitude helped him navigate the straightaways, curves, and potholes that derail too many dreams.

All great dreams need great teams. Click To Tweet

The LA Dream Center and all it took to get there and now to run the multitude of programs and outreaches is all team based. Your cause may start in your heart but it must begin to burn in others too. Recruiting, training, empowering, and releasing high energy teams of staff and volunteers is paramount to your success. As my two daughters often say (because they hear me say it all the time). Teamwork makes the dream work! I got that from my time around the LA Dream Center and following the amazing cause based career of Matthew Barnett. What began in LA has now extended internationally through the Dream Center Network. Amazing!

I highly recommend this book to leaders who have a cause in their heart and need an inspirational roadmap for the journey to see it lived out. WIth discussion questions in the back this can be done alone or in a small group or especially with the team surrounding the cause! This book isn’t for everyone. Many who have seen dreams come and go will baulk at all the stories and the antidotes and the inspirational quotes. For some it may be too late, but you never know. Maybe an attitude change could change the outcome of your past faded desires. It’s easy to be negative to those living and asking others to live their dreams. I simply believe that God has greatness for us all and that can be different as night and day for his children, but still greatness is there for us all!

I gave this book 5 stars because I feel Barnett captured his story and found principles to help others live their own story. It isn’t simply hype to get you excited, but a clarion call to action for those who need our gifts the most. If you are happy where you are at, great. Don’t read this book. If you feel a cause burning inside you, I cannot recommend a more readable and approachable book than The Cause within You. Oh, and if you can, get out to the LA Dream Center for one of their missions activities. Trust me, you will never be the same afterward.

My 2016 Top 10 Book List for Leaders


I love books and I love reading. Maybe a little too much!

For me, it’s a hobby. People often ask me how I can read so many books, work, play, and raise a family. I really don’t have a good answer for that one. What I think people are actually saying is that they wish they could read more but don’t have the time. I feel ya.

I was actually that way too once. I was more of a do, do ,do and get the task list done kinda of leader. But I felt empty at the end of the day. I wanted to feel like I was growing. So I just started reading.

A few tricks I use to keep books in front of me are:

  • I have a few books next to my bed.
  • I have a few stacked next to my work computer.
  • I always leave one in my car.
  • I keep a Kindle in my back pocket.

So any place I am at, when I have a breathing moment, instead of hopping onto the world wide time sucker (my tongue-in-cheek name for the web), I read for at least 10 minutes. If the book or article catches my attention I keep reading for a time. If not, then I hop onto the web and catch up on what’s happening in the news or in my friend’s lives.

So to save you some time looking for good books, I have created a list of my top ten out of the hundreds and hundreds of books I have read over the last few years.

2016 TOP 10 LIST

One: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

This book might have saved my life. When you have to focus on being a minister, a husband, a charity leader, a dad, a son, a friend, a relative, a colleague…life gets crazy. Finding and doing what matters most is essential in the world of today. Read this book. Your sanity is worth it.

Two: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

I cannot say enough about how this book has helped me and dozens of others I have coached. Giving you the tools to have the most difficult conversations, and have them well, is indispensable in a leader’s library.

Three: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

I have read and re-read this book for over a decade. Each time I try to implement more of the process. I am a slow learner or I might be more productive today! But I have the book and I keep on keepin on. If you want to bring order out of chaos to your work and home life, this book is a must!

Four: Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg

I am pretty sure the title speaks on it’s own. If you gain the whole world, whether in the business, nonprofit, or church sector, but your soul is thirsty and longing for more, longing for peace, longing for quiet, then this book can help you along that journey. Ortberg is one of my top 10 authors of all time. Read everything he writes!

Five: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

I came across the book by chance. I was looking for a new read and simply liked the cover. Then I read some of the book, watched her TED Talk and made an immediate connection to the words of this book and the authors journey.

I have become a very open and vulnerable person over the last four years of having bone issues and surgeries. It is a tough process for a leader to have to go through trying times and have those who follow watch the process of pain, questions, doubt, fear, and so much more. Yet, Brene Brown has written an entire book about leading from a place of vulnerability. You will not regret this read!

Six: Taking People with You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen by David Novak

I read this book years ago on a plane ride to see my brother in Seattle. It was the only time in my life I was actually willing the plane to taxi slower so I could finish the book. I have used the ideas for many years since.

This year I decided to dust it off and read it all over again. I cannot believe how much I never noticed the first read. (Perhaps it was the toddler kicking my seat for the five hours ride!) Anyway, I have already found new principles to add to my volunteer leadership ideas.

Seven: Communicating for a Change: Seven Key’s to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley 

I think I have had this book for years and never actually read it. I mean I heard so much about it, I felt like I had read it. So I decided to make sure I really knew what Andy Stanley (long time church and leadership writer I have followed) was communicating through this text. Yep, it was just as good as the talks, blogs, and other leaders I have heard quote Stanley out of this book.

Oh, and I realized that most of how I communicate was not effective.  So I gave the principles a shot in a recent sermon. I have never had such a response after a message in 15 years. Totally recommend this for anyone trying to communicate anything!

Eight: God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future by Will Mancini 

I have been friend’s with Will since 2009. His first books, Church Unique changed the way I did church and ministry. I loved it so much, I drove from Lawton, Oklahoma to Houston, Texas to spend a day with him. How would you like a random guy showing up to hang out with you? Well, Will and his family invited me in and I have a memory I continue to hold dear to my heart, setting and dreaming about ministry possibilities around Will’s living room and talks as we walked Kema Boardwalk.

In God Dream’s, Will takes many of the Church Unique ideas (how his company Auxano walks churches through a transformational process) and applies those to how you can frame your vision to make a huge difference in your community. If you enjoy either book, you should look into taking your church through the process with one of Will’s amazing navigators.

Nine: Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell

I have read this book on my own, with a team, and I have handed out a few copies. Not once have I ever heard someone say anything less than this book being amazing. The principles are fun and applicable to nay business or organization. Many of the stories go back to events at Disney, America’s theme park, so it grabs your attention easily.

I even tested out some of the principles when I went to Disney (when I probably should have focused on my daughters and wife). I was dumbfounded at how each and every time I saw the principles in this book brought to life. I was so amazed a year later I did a Disney Institute class on Business Excellence. So worth it!

Ten: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbertt and Brian Kikkert

Last but not least, I started working with charities and nonprofits this year and it’s been a steep learning curve. I have gotten my hands on a few different books, but this one is so worth the read. If you run a church with a compassion ministry, a charity that deals with the poor, or run a business that is generous to the surrounding community, do yourself a favor and read this. You may actually be hurting those your serve and placing your community in further poverty. Alleviating systemic poverty takes cooperative systemic systems. This book will guide you to the right path.

So what are your Top 10 Book Lists? If you have a blog where you posted your list, please feel free to post a link in the comments. If you simply want to add a great leadership read to the list and conversation, post below!

Leaders are readers…so get yours!

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