Volunteer Leadership Tips

The following is an excerpt from

Building a Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish Community,

by Rabbi Charles Simon, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock VT.

Volunteers need to be nurtured just as they need to be asked, acknowledged, thanked and motivated to get involved. Leadership (professional or volunteer) needs to insure that the time volunteers devote to a cause is a positive experience. This goes beyond simply expressing appreciation. A leader wishing to successfully involve volunteers needs to make an initial judgment about their skills and abilities and to then initiate a long term strategy that will nurture and empower those volunteers over a period of time.

One begins volunteer cultivation through the acknowledgment of the prospective volunteer’s gift of time. The simple act of thanking people for attending a meeting even if it is assumed that they will attend creates an opportunity for engagement.

Ask right or never again

The second act in engaging a volunteer is the asking. Individuals like to and need to be asked to help. Too often leadership or organizations simply assume that people will come forward and then, of course, they don’t. The failure of Leadership to think through the volunteer engagement process which entails the requesting of volunteers often results in lost opportunity. Some people actually fill out questionnaires and mail them back indicating that they would like to serve on a committee. When the congregation or organization fails to respond, those people will never offer their services again.

Volunteers need to be successful and a leader who asks someone to accept a position needs to provide sufficient support and information to insure that the volunteer experience is a successful one.

Turned off or burnt out?

Volunteer turn off is different from volunteer burn out and is much more frequent. Volunteer burnout happens over considerable time. Volunteer turn off can happen relatively quickly: It looks like this; a volunteer assumes a position of responsibility devotes a great deal of effort to succeeding and then vanishes.

Too often this is a direct result of the way the organizational structure and leadership interacted with the volunteer. It often happens that a volunteer is charged with a responsibility or a committee portfolio and is not provided with the proper understanding of the chain of command, the organization or agency’s culture, or the limits of their authority. As a consequence they find themselves undermined, misdirected and encountering a host of unnecessary obstacles. If the experience is demoralizing the volunteer finishes the required task and fades into the woodwork. Ouch!

Leaders need to ask themselves: What is the message we are attempting to deliver and how will it be received? The failure to ask and think through these questions can result in the discouragement of volunteers. Consider the numerous times people have been appointed to committees and never been properly engaged. Consider the nature of the message that is received when a volunteer is provided with a committee appointment or a position and without formal guidance. ……..

The book is available through the FJMC store….(click here)

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