Tag Archives: 3 Needs of a Volunteer

3 Needs of a Volunteer: Coach

13 Feb

Part 3 of 3: Coach

Volunteering should never be lonely work. Regularly check in with your volunteers. “How’s it coming? Do you need anything? Have we told you what a good job you’re doing?” This is where you communicate the Vision talked about way back at the beginning of this article. This is where you find out if they need any added training or tools, if the workload is realistic and balanced. These conversations are your biggest listening tool and you need to pay careful attention to what you’re hearing.Most accidents are preventable, right? If you’re not listening, you will be the last to find out about the blow up.

Staying in regular contact with your volunteers should double as quality control. When done properly quality control is actually a huge encouragement to both the checker and the volunteer. If you’re checking each completed task you get to see all the awesome things that are being done well and you get to praise the volunteers for it. But, there is another side to quality control that’s not as fun. It’s tempting for organizations to assign the ‘nice work’ of praising to the volunteer coordinator and the control side to someone else in the organisation (usually the coordinator’s boss). This is also known as good cop/bad cop and will be guaranteed to make everyone uncomfortable. Not only do volunteers get the feeling that they’re being sent to the office, it also sends a signal that the volunteer coordinator is incompetent and not trusted by the rest of the organization.

This may sound like a lot of things to make happen at once (“I’m supposed to coach the vision while making sure everything fits?”), but implementing one makes it easier to implement the others. Another tool that helps is a good old-fashioned intake interview (look for that post soon!). Don’t stress yourself out too much because volunteers are the best of your community. Their patience is nigh to boundless, so they get used and abused a lot. They’ll be thrilled to just see you making an effort.

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3 Needs of a Volunteer: Fit

10 Feb

Part 2 of 3.

If a volunteer gets burned out it is usually because they were put someplace they weren’t a good fit for. Consider these points to be my burnout prevention plan.

You and the volunteers need to be realistic about what exactly they can accomplish. Too often we get the idea that we should just take the amount of work needed to be done (x), divide it by the number of volunteers (y), and thus conclude that everyone’s workload should be z. x/y=z but it also equals universal unhappiness. You will be unhappy that everything is not getting done and the volunteers will be unhappy because you’ve completely overwhelmed them. It is much better to simply ask a volunteer how much time they can spend helping you out and then following up in a week to ask “Hey, how did that feel? Can you do more or do we need to back off a little?” Most people will say they can do more. Sometimes you can end up with a volunteer doing a workload of zbut they’re happy doing it because you eased them into it by increments that they agreed to.

Have volunteers do what they’re good at. Break out of the mental rut that volunteers can only set up banquet halls, assemble yard signs, and man parking lots. The best way to find out is to ask. “What do you feel you’re good at? What do you enjoy doing?” The volunteer who works as a salesman for his professional job should not be tasked with data entry. If a volunteer is always asking “Do you have these instructions in a spreadsheet format?” take a wild guess at what she could do! I feel like I should start quoting I Corinthians 11. Finally, remember that any task that you might pay someone to do can be done by a volunteer. There can be a big overlap between volunteerism and in-kind donations.

You need to give volunteers the training and tools they need to succeed. Most organizations are pretty good about tools, but training might be the most overlooked tool in volunteerism. In my experience, a lack of training is certainly one of the biggest causes of frustration in volunteers. Nothing is scarier than being asked to do something you don’t know how to go about doing. Don’t put someone in that spot. Volunteers can come to you already very skilled, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show their value by adding to it. A lot of times they come to you very skilled in things totally unrelated to what your needs are. If they’re willing and intelligent, don’t let their inexperience count against them–just train them on what you need them to do.