Developing Volunteers

Developing Volunteers

The value of volunteers cannot be overstated. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, roughly 63 million Americans volunteered close to 8 billion hours in 2014, with those hours being valued at over $180 billion. Now is the time, at the start of 2017, to build a plan for getting the most out of your dedicated volunteer force.

Volunteer leaders, just as with business leaders, must be trained and developed in order to reach their full potential. Each volunteer offers a unique skill set to be tapped into and honed, so new volunteers should be recruited thoughtfully and matched to roles in which they have interest and can flourish.  Trainings and workshops are important (particularly if they are more interactive and less instructional), but your association must think carefully about how these lessons translate into the organizational day-to-day.

Here are a few tips on how to maximize volunteer potential in 2017:

  • Create a “vision” for your volunteer program. What does a successful volunteer program look like to your association? In 5 or 10 years, where do you want your organization to be? How can an active, committed volunteer force get you there?
  • Don’t assume that everyone knows your association’s mission and goals. The start of a new year offers a nice opportunity to bring your volunteers into the fold, set expectations, and enlist them in the planning process. You can also remind them of their role and how crucial it is to your organization’s success.
  • Keep lines of communication open. Don’t just rely on newsletters and emails to interact with your volunteers. Develop clear reporting channels and provide your volunteers with consistent training and feedback. Use valuable meeting time to discuss strategy instead of general housekeeping.
  • Invest in your volunteers. You aren’t paying them, but you should be providing them with instruction, infrastructure, professional development opportunities, and meaningful acknowledgement of their time and effort. If you aren’t doing these things you risk losing your volunteers and/or undermining their potential.
  • Consider the needs of your volunteers. Why are your volunteers there? Are they passionate about your mission or is it something else, too? How can you make sure your time together is mutually beneficial?
  • Evaluate. Is your volunteer program working? Do your volunteers enjoy the work they do? If the answer to these questions is “no,” make changes.

Where would your association be without your volunteers? How do you plan to develop them this year?