“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew
Volunteers are at the heart of most non-profit organizations. They govern, fundraise, serve and advocate for the organizations they represent. Without volunteers countless organizations simply could not execute their missions.
I am an active volunteer with a couple organizations in my community. I serve because I believe in the missions and I feel called to give of both my time and my resources. However at this time of year, my bandwidth is limited. We have two teenaged boys who both play basketball for their schools. From November through February, we often have five games Monday-Friday between the two boys. When you add in the travel time, time in the gym, time spent as psychiatrist with the boys after the games, creative food planning to ensure moderately healthy meals instead of drive-through dinners, laundry, etc. it is like adding a full-time job to the already very full schedule.
No, I don’t take a break from volunteering during the season, but I do appreciate the colleagues who recognize that this is a busy time for me. Just yesterday, I was asked to attend a meeting with an organization where I serve in a leadership capacity. One proposed date was a no go for me, the other was possible, but required me to move a meeting on my calendar. When I shared this with the coordinating staff member, the response was, “No worries. I can handle this one.” It was a gift. Do you have a volunteer who needs a gift?
Being a good manager of your volunteers requires one crucial activity. Getting to know them. You should understand their motives and what they enjoy most about serving. You should find out what makes them feel appreciated and what roles they might want to try in the future. You should ask about areas for improvement and how they may be better supported by the organization. You should also strive to make volunteering convenient. Although they are critical, it is important to remember that volunteers are just that—volunteers. They are passionate, caring people who have chosen to make time in their schedules to serve in some way, but never forget that they have many other priorities in their lives.
Recognize that your volunteers all have their own full plates and stresses in their lives. Pay attention to the times when their bandwidth is limited and help carry the load. Say thank you—often! They don’t have to give their time and resources to you—never take it for granted. Your words and your help will mean far more than any trinket or plaque.