The Painful Act of Volunteering

So lately, I have endured a few painful volunteer experiences. As a former non-profit professional, and now serving the non-profit industry, here are a few tips on the treatment of volunteers. I don’t believe it is rocket science, but after my last 2 volunteer experiences, perhaps it is:

  • Always outline clear expectations for each volunteer position you need staffed. What time does the volunteer need to be there? Who will be the contact person? What is the contact person’s cell phone number? Who will they be volunteering with? Do they have a script or know the specific role and the responsibilities that come with it?
  • Always confirm with your volunteer. The volunteer should not have to track you down to get information on what is expected of them. Remember they are doing you a favor.
  • Greet your volunteer. Treat the volunteer with respect and smiles. They should not have to find you when they arrive at their volunteer location. Be there to greet them with a smile, introduce them to other volunteers and outline their responsibilities again (give them written instructions). A volunteer is only as good as the coordinator.
  • Be positive. I know I said this a few lines before, but let me repeat: BE POSITIVE. They are giving you their time, because they believe in YOUR mission and organization. How you present yourself, reflects directly on the organization. If you are a jerk, disorganized, standoffish or whatever else negative – they will subconsciously relate to your organization. Is it that hard to be nice?
  • Say thank-you. People – this is not hard! When they contact you to volunteer – say thank-you. When you email them with instructions – say thank-you. When they show up to volunteer – say thank-you. When they are staffing their position – say thank-you. When they leave after volunteering – say thank-you. Be genuine.
  • Follow-up. Send a handwritten note(yep, I said handwritten), thanking your volunteer for taking time out of THEIR life to make YOU a priority. Ask them to give you feedback on their experience and ask how you can improve the experience in the future. In this note, do not ask them to volunteer again, you will come off as greedy (and having an ulterior motive).

Remember that a volunteer does not owe you or your organization anything. They believe in the mission and the good you are doing in the community. A thank-you and respect go a long way. (And yes, I did use all caps and bold to make my point – did it work?)

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