If your charity or organization works with volunteers (churches, art museums, food banks, hospitals, schools, for starters), keep these insights in mind:
- Communication must be a top priority. Volunteers are making time for your cause, and have busy lives. Communicating goals, expectations, and the dates you need their help ensures they are fully informed.
- If given a choice between a volunteer appreciation events and respecting their time, your volunteers would prefer that you respect their time. Respecting your volunteer's time is the highest form of respect.
- Volunteers are donors; the gift is time, not money. Treat your volunteers as you would a major gifts donor. Financial donors can earn more money. Volunteers will never be able to earn more time.
- Relationships are more important than programs. If your program or agency requires volunteers to make it effective and efficient, make sure your priorities are in order. People first.
- Make it easy to volunteer. Don't place unreasonable expectations for training or preparation on your volunteers. Provide them with the resources they will need to be effective, keeping in mind training and preparation time is part of their volunteer experience. Good will only goes so far. Even the most dedicated volunteers will be demotivated if you are not prepared for them, or if you create an environment that discourages enthusiastic service.
- Say gratitude for their service in ways that are meaningful to your volunteers. An unexpected thank you note or sincere word of encouragement goes a long way in nurturing your relationship and speaking to your volunteer’s heart. Every volunteer wants to know their service and time is appreciated and that their effort is making a difference.
Volunteers are a precious resource, who are frontline ambassadors and champions for your cause. Their service on behalf of your cause is part of their life story. You can help volunteers make the chapter that includes your cause worth telling by showing them the respect they deserve, and keep them coming back.
How do you nurture a culture where volunteers are appreciated? Download a free Cause Manifesto poster for inspirational and practical insights to help you lead by design, and create a culture of communication.