In a normal work environment, employees are routinely and strategically developed in their professional growth. While most employees typically understand the necessity for their own proactive, self-motivated development, I’m not quite as confident that volunteers always have the same view of their individual role within an organization. Of course, volunteer development is strictly based on the type of task that needs to be performed.
For example, if you’re volunteering to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen, then a minimum of training is required (i.e. stand here and scoop these potatoes onto each plate). If you’re volunteering to teach a 5th grade boys Sunday School class at church, then I can see the potential for training in the areas of teaching, discipline, classroom management, and so on. Every volunteer position will vary in difficulty and training required to accomplish the task.
I believe the majority of volunteers show up to fill a spot. They can see and understand that there is a need. Then, they step up to meet the perceived need. I’m not always sure, though, that they understand the training and development necessary to perform their role.
If you are a leader of volunteers, then you need to passionately guide volunteers in their personal growth and development. Here are some strategies I have found useful in leading my volunteer groups.
5 Strategies For Your Volunteer Development Arsenal
- Model Superstardom: if you want your volunteer group to perform at an amazingly high level, then your own personal performance has to be at the extreme high-end of your own expectations. The groups that you lead will not typically rise past your own level and ability as the leader. If you desire for them to be superstars, then you need to be a superstar performer yourself, first. “You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself. “ – Gene Mauch
- The 5-Minute Motivational Speech: no, this isn’t shades of Matt Foley (“… living in a van, down by the river” stuff). This is actually a quasi-newer addition for me in my development arsenal. So far, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from my volunteers. They view it as spiritual devotional at the beginning of our time together. I actually view it as a way to teach and motivate my volunteers each week. Either way you view it, though, it works well as a connecting and teaching opportunity.
- Print and digital newsletter: for 16 years, I have done several motivational activities within the context of print media. For my own volunteer organization, we utilize a print newsletter and digital pdf version that we email out each week. Within each publication, I typically utilize these two articles to subtly and consistently develop my team. The Quote of the Week: at the top my weekly newsletter, I attempt to include a motivational and encouraging quote. You know you’ve hit a home run on a quote when members take that quote and put it up on Facebook after reading it! Note from Larry (or Note from the Leader): in this section of the newsletter, I always try to be an encourager of their successes and grateful for their commitment to the mission and vision.
- Workshops: whenever possible, we schedule small workshops to assist in the development of our volunteers. We occasionally will also go off site for larger workshops and conferences.
- Books: there have been a few occasions when I have utilized short books with smaller groups of leaders. Books are always great tools to learn and grow, even in the context of a small group. You can read through them together and have group discussions regarding what you’re learning.
Questions: Are you a leader of volunteers? Do you use any of these five strategies and have they been effective with your teams? What other strategies have you utilized and how effective have they been?