Any nonprofit, church, or charity organization either rocks it at volunteerism or is rock bottom when it comes to getting people to serve. I have yet to see any middle ground. Therefore, this series of posts is designed to help you begin to develop a healthier culture of volunteerism in your organization.
When I asked Chris Maverty, a volunteer master leader at North Coast Church in San Diego, what it takes to really have volunteers, he utilized the word HAVE to give his answer. I will expound on his answers with some advice of my own too.
I. How To H.A.V.E. volunteers?
The leader or volunteer organizer must establish a reoccurring habit of when you will recruit, train, release, and retire volunteers. Leaders are often great at getting in paperwork, reports, POs, and the like in on time. We have habits for meetings and planning and so on. But when it comes to volunteerism, we often hope for the best without any prior thought or planning.
We all need to develop a habit of constantly looking for the next volunteer to join the team and have a regularly set time that will be utilized to orient them, train them, and release them into service. When you create a meeting and invite everyone to it, you and others will be prepared for that meeting with whats needed to get the job done. It’s the pressure of knowing the meeting is coming and being ready for it. The same is basically true for volunteerism.
If you set a date to train, lets say 12 volunteers a month, then the pressure is on you and the team (if you have one) to identify them and invite them to that meeting. No one wants to come to a meeting with no one there. The pressure works on you and the team to keep volunteerism always in mind. If you have an arbitrary stance to when you will find and train volunteers, you will always be in the rush once the big event is right upon you. Instead of recruiting well-trained servants of your mission, you place any warm body as a place holder to make it through. This is abusive to volunteers and a shame to your organizations valued mission and vision.
The leader must have a positive and authentically caring attitude towards those that serve above them, under them, and beside them. We often hear people say that attitude is everything, and why, because it’s true. Those that serve us can easily see through any false attitude of care, support, and celebration. They must be able to see us as their champion, knowing we have their back and are here to serve them as much as they are here to serve us. This is all truly built up and enhanced the next two letters, V and E.
Ask yourself, “Am I putting the volunteer’s needs and interest above my own?” Leaders must ask that question because abuse of volunteers is why fewer and fewer people are signing up to serve. They have heard the horror stories of volunteer leaders who literally yell at, look down on, and misuse those that serve. They hear about the guy that gets stuck teaching the same class for twenty years, or the lady that can never seem to get out of cooking every meal for the youth service. Thus, for today’s leaders, we are not only trying to recruit servants, we are trying to overcome the stigmata established by poor volunteer oversight.
Continually ask yourself, “What do they need?”
- Are they having a bad day?
- Are their kids going though something tough and its weighing on your parent volunteer? Is their marriage falling apart?
- Have they been passed over by a promotion?
- Are they simply having a bad day or week?
We all have these situation and issues as leaders, so why is it so hard for us to remember that our volunteers have them too.
Chris Maverty says it so well when he says, “Put the person before the yes. Care for them, don’t use them.”
Do we want everyone we ask to say yes when we need them? Of course! But we cannot do that and trump the care it takes to allow them to say no at times. Now understand, I am talking about a legitimate need, some volunteers may not have a legitimate reason to say no, and you will know when to push a bit harder for a yes. This is why all leaders need to see wisdom and discernment. The point is, know your volunteers. You would want the same if you were serving.
Elevate those that serve! Celebrate good times, come on! (feel free to pause and sing along with Cool and the Gang in your head)
Let others know who has joined your team. Raise the energy level. Oh, and be excited even from the beginning. Don’t wait for them to accomplish something amazing, let them know you believe in them from the beginning. More people do amazing feats when they know that have a strong support for them . Praise early, praise often, and do it from the heart!
Plus, when you celebrate the new recruits (and of course celebrate those already on the team), it helps others want to join YOUR TEAM. They see that you are a fun leader, one who cares, one who celebrates, one who supports, and they cannot wait to be a part! The team that plays hard is a team that also knows how to work hard.
Now go put these four words into action this week and see your volunteer culture begin to grow healthier. Speaking of a volunteer culture, Volunteers: From Seats to Service, Part 2 this week will be on how to create and establish a healthier volunteer culture!
Note: This blog is a result of a meeting with Chris Maverty on 9-17-15.