When you’re a boss with paid employees, it’s easy to give orders and get things done. But when you have volunteers that choose to give up their spare time to help, it takes much more to get them there, keep them motivated, and possibly most important, keep them coming back.
From my experience of being a volunteer, and having volunteers under me, these are four crucial principles for interacting with your volunteers.
Just was a quick side note, this should not be seen as a way to manipulate people. This is simply you striving to be a better leader to those around you. Ok, let’s dive in.
- Remind them of why they’re there. When you do run your events week after week it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of it all. So it’s important for you, the leader, to remind your volunteers of the importance of their role, and also the impact they are having on the world.
For example, I used to help with a children’s program for 1st-6th graders at a church. I was only there for a year, and had very little interaction with my small group. But recently I ran into one of my guys, who’s in middle school now. He informed me that there was just something about our time together that really encouraged him to grow in the Lord. Please hear me when I say I’m not trying to brag. What I hope you understand is that while I didn’t see anything particularly life-altering about our small group time, it had an impact on this kid. Hey, you never know.
- Have fun. Don’t be that guy that’s super serious and all business. No one likes that guy. Do your tasks, make sure things get done, but have fun with it. Crack jokes, be a little goofy. Maybe even playa prank once in a while (harmless ones, of course). Your volunteers might have hard jobs, but it doesn’t have to be boring.
- Do things with excellence. Have you ever had a job that you looked at and thought, “I am really proud of the work I did.” That’s the feeling you want people to walk away with when they volunteer. It’s a contagious feeling, and makes you want to come back for more. Maintaining high standards helps people appreciate what they’re doing.
- Correct problems with grace. Obviously, problems arise everywhere. How you handle them says a lot about you as a leader. I’ve had plenty of times when people under me made a mistake, and I handled it badly. When correcting someone, always listen to their side, don’t jump to conclusions, and correct in a way that builds them up. The Apostle Peter is famous for denying Christ three times. But when Jesus had the chance to talk to him about it, he was calm, and strengthened and encouraged Peter for the future.