Volunteers can leave a program or organization if they
are unhappy or unmotivated. Here are some tips to keep happy volunteers.
What did you learn from volunteers this week? Here is a quick test
to make sure you are really listening to those volunteers. Every Friday
afternoon make a list of the things you learned from volunteers in
the preceding week. If you list two or three items, it shows you are
listening and the volunteers will notice.
There are special people in most organizations-an administrator,
or deputy administrator, executive director or deputy, finance director,
a person visiting from "headquarters," a speaker, the list
goes on. Have a quarterly "brown bag" lunch with a "special
person" and invite volunteers. Not a time for speech making,
but just the informal gathering of volunteers with people of importance
to the organization.
Capitalize on special skills. New volunteers often bring skill in
addition to those being performed for the organization. Find out about
those skills and put them to work in the organization. Say a person
with lots of experience in advertising and marketing is new to the
organization and is tutoring children. Ask if the person will help
with the design of a recruitment campaign by helping design brochures
or Web ads.
"The Bosses Checklist." Sit down and write a description
of things you would like your supervisor to have as managerial characteristics.
"Give honest feedback." "Do not hold grudges."
"Give clear instructions." Then follow those items when
Say thanks to the invisible volunteer. Many volunteers do things
that are not visible; keep up a database, schedule other volunteers,
write thank you letters for you, or do janitorial work for the organization.
Be sure to say thanks, and publicly, for all the effort.
Questions. Develop a list of questions to ask volunteers. "How
has it gone today?" "Is today different from the last time
you were here?" "Any suggestions?" Visit with different
volunteers each week and ask these questions. It is a morale booster
and good way to learn about the attitudes of volunteers.
Make flexibility an option. Volunteers are sometimes shy about asking
for flexibility in a work assignment. Make sure volunteers know that
changing hours or locations is always a discussible item. Highlight
it in training, write articles in the newsletter, urge volunteers
to share examples of flexibility, and write it into handbooks.
Interested in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: Volunteer Recruiting & Retention: A Marketing
Approach, by Nancy Macduff and To Lead is to Serve, by Shar McBee.
some places there has been a bias against working with younger volunteers.
There are those who believe that the Generation X (those born between
1964-1975) are self-absorbed, slackers and job hoppers. Turns out the
"conventional wisdom" may be wrong. In a study of 1200 GenX
working professionals, 47% said that spending the rest of their career
with their current employer would make them happy. 85% said their current
employers future was important to them. 83% said they would go above and
beyond to help the company succeed. 75% said they were happy they chose
their current employer. Hmmmm. Time to rethink those attitudes about GenXers
*Survey Reveals the X Factor, by
Anne Bond Emerich in the Grand Rapids Business Journal. This was a report
of a study conducted by GE and Ernst & Young.
Recruiting volunteers is much like the
hiring process, when done well a volunteer stays in place for a reasonable
amount of time and is satisfied with the work done. When done poorly there
is a revolving door with volunteers in and out faster than a speeding
bullet! When a long term volunteer leaves panic sets in to recruit someone
to replace him/her. Here are some tips to help: before you recruit and
while you are interviewing.
Who else can do the job? Look around
at other volunteers and see who might be a good candidate to take
over the position. Trouble figuring out who? Write a list of the ideal
characteristics for the position and then look around the current
list of volunteers to see if someone fits that list of characteristics.
Analyze before recruiting. Take the time to review
position descriptions before you leap into recruiting. The person
leaving may have been doing the job for 10 years. Today more volunteers
want short-term jobs. Can the current job be parsed into smaller pieces,
hence recruiting people for shorter-term service. Can you reorganize
the way things are done, with new position descriptions, and new ways
of service. Look at all options before recruiting for the "same
When you start to recruit ask for help from current
volunteers. The best recruiter of volunteers is another volunteer.
Someone in the current group of volunteers may know someone who would
be perfect for the position. Widely circulate the position description
amongst current volunteers.
Maintain high standards. Do not panic. Write on
a piece of paper you see each day, "I will keep my standards
high." Do not give in to desperation and pick the wrong person
for a key position.
When you are selecting new volunteers look for
people who produce. Anyone can complete an application, but who has
a track record in his/her previous volunteer or work life. Even if
the individual is unfamiliar with your organization, the producer,
who is also a quick learner, is an ideal choice for the position.
Want to know if a volunteer will fit? Let them
spend some time with real volunteers doing the job. Make sure the
prospective volunteer is with current volunteers you trust. Urge them
to have coffee or lunch with the prospective candidate for the position.
Each side will learn about the other during that informal time.
Get some good questions. Have interview questions
for volunteers that reveal how they will work in your setting. "Tell
what you liked about the last volunteer position you had? What didn't
Are you looking for a team player? Some organizations
have volunteers who work quite independently of other volunteers,
but in many situations the volunteer becomes part of a volunteer and
staff team. . .so teamwork skills are essential. Ask if the person
has worked on a team and to describe that experience. Then start counting
the number of times they use "I" rather than "we."
This is a good indicator of whether he/she is really a team player.
Take notes during an interview. Some studies have
shown that 75% of the information gained in an interview is lost,
unless recorded. You need your own codes for information to remind
you of personal characteristics or skills.
The Points of Light Foundation has forms available
to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points
of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate
unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen
action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children
and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The
award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like
nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.
By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals
can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive
call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who
can help them volunteer.