Volunteers: The Heart of Community Organizations
Table of Contents
Volunteers are the most important resource community organizations have. The ability of people to work willingly together for the betterment of their community and themselves is a valuable resource.
The image of the volunteer has changed over time. Gone is the stereotype of the middle-aged housewife with time on her hands. Now volunteers come from all walks of life: they may be a teenager learning to manage responsibility by caring for wounded wildlife, an executive sharing management skills with a community group or a retiree enjoying a new friendship as a volunteer reader at the community library.
Ideally, volunteers find the donation of their time and energy a meaningful experience for themselves as well as for the organization. A true win/win situation.
There is no great trick to motivation It's simply finding out what people like to do and can do well and then letting them do it.
Motivation is like:
People are motivated when they understand and value the payoffs.
Motivation is a very individual and internal concept. It's a person's drive to satisfy one of their needs. It's very much a two-way street. When volunteers and the organization are highly motivated, the organization accomplishes:
In return the volunteer receives:
You can't force people to do something that they're not interested in.
A volunteer needs:
Work given to a volunteer must be work that the volunteer wants to do.
Help volunteers discover their uniqueness...
... then help them move from one comfort level to another comfort level. Help them through the discomfort level.
You want to keep morale and motivation in high gear at all times. Some ways to do this:
A manager of volunteers is one who establishes and maintains a creative climate. Within this climate, volunteers choose to work co-operatively toward the accomplishment of goals and objectives which are compatible with personal and organizational values.
The failure to perceive what people really want and need is the biggest motivational problem.
Be sure to use supervision or the buddy system regularly to be a source of support, assurance and redirection for yourself.
Because you, the manager of volunteers, truly care about others, you have a responsibility to care for yourself so that you will have energy, strength and resources to be there when they need you.
The rights of the volunteer may be seen as the responsibility of the organization and the responsibility of the volunteer as the rights of the organization.
The organization is responsible for making sure that volunteers are treated well. In return, the organization benefits by getting extra effort and good quality work from the volunteer.
Understanding why a person wants to volunteer will help determine the best job placement.
Volunteers are very special people whose donation of time and effort warrants special consideration. They should always be encouraged to grow, learn and seek fulfillment as they help an organization, even if it means accepting the reality that not everyone is perfect for every job.
Formal recognition is important to the volunteer. Other people need to be told of their goodness (i.e., at banquets, in press releases, etc.).
Informal recognition is even more important. It takes place on a one-to-one basis and is done through personal meetings, telephone calls, letters, etc.
Recognition can be likened to an iceberg. The formal recognition is visible by all above the waterline. The informal is the large mass below the water. It's a much greater area to respond to.
Recognition and encouragement are essential to stimulating and maintaining active involvement. You need to be:
Spontaneous express the appreciation/recognition on the spot. If you wait until later in the day or year, you've lost most of its motivating force.
Sincere phoniness is worse that saying nothing.
Specific speaking in generalities doesn't let people know if you really are sure what they've done.
Thankful a handshake, pat on the back
Use Non-Verbal Communication Your expression on your face, all your body language should smile and applaud.
Creative use a variety of approaches to find ways to recognize volunteers.
Able to Laugh be human!
There are thousands of ways to recognize people for their efforts a smile, a thank-you for , newsletter/press releases, reimbursement of expenses when possible, name tags, letters of appreciation, banquets, special occasion cards, calendars, baby-sitting services, a picnic...
Brainstorm Ideas List Their Hobbies and Interests
These areas will reveal new forms of recognition that are creative, appropriate and user-friendly.
Motivating Volunteers. Moore, Larry, F. Vancouver Volunteer Centre, 1985.
Skills for Working Together. Pennsylvania State University, University College of Agriculture Co-operative Extension Services.
Volunteer/Staff/Client Relationships. Ontario Association of Volunteer Bureaus/Centres, Toronto, Ontario.
Volunteers: How to Find Them, How to Keep Them. 2nd ed., Vancouver Volunteer Centre, 1990.
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