For all of my adult life, I have worked in the not-for-profit, church world. In this environment, volunteers are indispensable. Many think volunteers are people who have more time than other people. That is not true! The distinction is that they usually have more heart than others rather than more time. Some of the best volunteers I have served with were very busy people. They found that life’s highest satisfaction was in helping people and making a difference. Whether you are looking to fill a paid position or looking to add volunteer staff here are the principle’s that you must know and consider as you choose staff:
- Point to the Destination. Anyone who volunteers wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves; they also want to know where the organization is headed. The organizational direction is a way of saying, “I need to know where we are going before I commit.”
- Think relationship ahead of results. Volunteers are people! Though most leaders are bottom line, results-oriented people, staff do not want to be nothing more than a cog in a machine. If you recruit and keep volunteers, you must build and maintain good relationships with the volunteers. All of us respond more positively to those we are in a relationship with and have mutual respect for as well.
- The prospective volunteer wants to know, “am I needed?” People want to be a part of something larger than themselves, and they want to know is there a place for me in your organization/church.
- They also want to know is “there a place for someone like me in your organization?” Will I fit in is the question they are asking? Are you interested in me or are you trying to fill a slot? Do you need me, or do you need to have something done, and anyone will do? People want to know that they matter and can make a difference.
- Another question that volunteers are asking “will I have input?” May I make suggestions and am I allowed to offer ideas and ask questions? They will want you to answer this question?
- “Will they listen to me?” Do the leaders think they have all the answers is another take on the above question. Not only will I be able to have input, will they listen to me? In today’s world, people don’t want just to fill a hole; they want to make a difference; they want to contribute positively to the moving forward of your organization. They know you may not implement all of their ideas, but they want to make sure that you will listen to them and value their opinion.
- “Will they keep me in the loop?” People dislike to be surprised or blindsided when they are serving in your organization. If there is a significant decision coming down, they want to know about it and understand how it will impact them and the organization. If information is power, you must keep volunteers in the loop.
- “Do they care about me?” Again are you so focused on the bottom line and the results of the organization that you ignore the people who are a part of the team? People will give long hours and do their absolute best if they know you care, and they have confidence in your leadership. Caring must be more than mere lip-service you must show it in your interactions with the team.
- “How much freedom will I have?” People want flexibility, including volunteers. Do you allow room for people to do things not just precisely the way you would do it, are they allowed to improvise? You need to decide the answer before you recruit the volunteer. How flexible are you in the task or activity you are asking the team member to accomplish? They may come up with a more efficient and fun way of getting to the same place you envisioned. Are you able to handle them doing it in their way? You must know the answer to that question before bringing the staff person on board.
- Can the volunteer find significance by being a part of your team? Everyone is looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Can you harness the energy of the staff with the mission and vision of your organization? If you can, you can create an excellent partnership.
Always remember that no one of us is as smart as all of us! We all need to be a part of a team.