It’s a busy world. Many of your volunteers are already over-scheduled, over-extended and are just doing their best to give back to an organization that matters.
In this hectic world, how can your organization make this important group feel valued so they understand the difference they are making to your clients and community?
1. Listen to their feedback
Regularly check in with your volunteers to make sure they aren’t facing any unnecessary roadblocks related to their roles. Once a year conduct an informal feedback session or distribute a short survey to ask what barriers, if any, are making your volunteers’ lives harder than than need to be, or if any processes could be made easier. Then, use their suggestions to implement practical solutions.
For example, if an out-of-town volunteer has trouble making it to weekly meetings, consider whether you can bring him or her in via teleconference or Skype. Or, maybe you could consider holding your fundraiser at a different time of year when your volunteers’ children aren’t as busy with school activities. Maybe hand-written forms are taking your volunteers too long to fill out and could be easily automated or digitalized for fast completion.
By asking for your volunteers’ perspectives, and incorporating easy fixes, you show you are willing to make it as easy possible for them to take part in your cause.
2. Demonstrate the difference they’re making
Getting knee deep in execution is a great trait – it’s what makes you, and your volunteer crew, terrific at what you do.
But even if it’s a busy time of the year, or you’re conducting the same outreach activity for the umpteenth time in a row, never forget the importance of measuring – and sharing – impact numbers. Even when your moving fast and/or flawlessly, a good volunteer manager always remembers to share results at the end of the day.
Tell your volunteer group how many people they helped, how many families they fed, or how many audience members they educated – and calculate what that would be equal to in wages that would otherwise come from operational funding.
Don’t worry if the numbers for a certain event or initiative don’t look great, either. There is nothing more gratifying, or motivating, for a volunteer than hearing metrics on the difference they’re making. It helps give everyone a helpful boost to remind them they are in fact contributing to positive change.
3. Voice your appreciation
Show you care by saying thank you often and unreservedly. Whether a volunteer’s contribution was large or small, be sure to articulate your thanks in a personal, meaningful way. Doing so may feel like a small gesture, but it is an important reminder of your gratefulness to your group members – even though many don’t do it for the recognition.
Depending on your group’s size and makeup, showing appreciation may be most practical in a posting to your Facebook group (don’t forget to tag the volunteer’s name!) or as part of a special “kudos call-out” portion of a weekly meeting. If you think the individual would rather a quieter show of praise, consider sending a hand-written card instead. If your time is tight, something as simple as a phone call to say thank you will make a difference and cement the important of their time.
4. Celebrate success
Nothing secures a feeling of success like a celebration. That doesn’t mean you need to organize a big-budget gala to highlight your team’s work. Celebrating can be as simple as taking your volunteers out for a round of drinks and telling them what they mean to your organization. Or, arrange for a vendor to donate a good or service such as passes to see a movie together. You could also organize a summer barbecue or winter potluck and host it at your or a member’s house. Just like the workplace, it’s important for group members to have time to engage with one another outside of their assigned work and roles – this promotes group cohesion, and furthermore, they deserve it!