by | Nov 1, 2021

Building a great team of volunteers can help you to delegate roles so you can get more done, with less pressure on your busy leadership teams.

  1. PLAN AHEAD

A little bit of advance planning can help you to build a great team of volunteers. Chances are they won’t come ready to hit the ground, but having a clear plan of what you want to achieve and the skills and you need to get there will help you get going.

Creating a functioning team means knowing:

  • Who are you looking for?
  • What skills are needed and/or desirable?
  • What training you will deliver or make available to equip and prepare your volunteers?

2. SUPPORT AND SUPERVISE

Once you’ve got a group of great people, you want to hold on to them! Support and supervision is a great way to keep your team sharp, help them to develop their skills and to show your team that they matter.

Your support and supervision agenda for volunteers should include:

  • How are you doing? – You are relationship-building and want to demonstrate a genuine concern for them as a person, not just as a function of the project! Take some time to hear about their life.
  • Briefly check admin – hours volunteered, holidays coming up. Are they over-stretching themselves? Do you need to arrange cover if they are planning to be away?
  • What is good / not good about their volunteering experience? – Hear their feelings, discuss solutions.
  • How is their performance? Have you any concerns? Are they completing records properly? – If there is a problem, what else is going on that could be affecting performance?
  • Any training and development needs or wants?

3. APPRECIATE YOUR TEAM

Everyone wants to feel special! Taking time to recognise and appreciate your team can really help to motivate them. There are so many different ways you can do this.

  • Ongoing training, stretching them, offering new/different roles
  • Giving additional responsibility – one-off jobs, short or longer-term – only if they agree! Don’t assume.
  • Using Volunteer Week or Christmas as an excuse for a celebration meal together
  • Feature them in your newsletter or on your website, e.g. a case study
  • Having a board member get in touch with them
  • Noticing a particular issue e.g. a challenging situation being handled well, or going the extra mile
  • Mentioning them by name and thanking publicly and privately – a wee notecard, for example

4. FINISH WELL

Don’t assume your volunteers will be around forever! It’s important to have a plan in place to encourage and bring in others. It will give you peace of mind and will prevent current volunteers feeling burdened.

It can be difficult when volunteers leave, both practically but often relationally, as you are losing a friend to you and the project.

  • When any of your volunteers do choose to finish volunteering, celebrate!
  • Give them a gift as a token of appreciation – a thank you card at the very least! Have the team together to say farewell.
  • Invite the volunteer for an exit interview. It is a great opportunity to get feedback on their volunteering experience.

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