Tips for Leading Volunteer Teams

screening volunteers, volunteer background checkWhy does one volunteer coordinator excel at leading teams while others struggle with it? While some people come by their leadership abilities naturally, it is a skill that can be learned; however, just like learning the piano, it takes regular practice.

Leadership Tips for Volunteer Managers

  1. Get people excited about your mission: If you’re not enthusiastic about what your organization is doing, how can you expect your volunteers to be? The moment your drive lags a bit, someone will be affected by it—so do what you have to do to stay motivated.
  2. Tap into volunteers’ needs: Find out why each person is there. For one volunteer, it might be to find a community. Others are fulfilling a spiritual mandate to give back. Still others are motivated by being needed. When you get to know your volunteers and their reasons for doing it, you’ll be better able to meet their needs.
  3. Show you care: This is related to number two. While every volunteer might have a different reason for doing it, they all have one common need: to feel like someone cares. Showing an interest in your volunteers’ family and personal lives—without prying or becoming too familiar—is important. Remember that each individual will have a different comfort level regarding sharing personal information, so proceed carefully.
  4. Show appreciation: Another common need among volunteers: to feel appreciated. When volunteers start feeling that the only thing you care about is that they show up to work, trouble can begin. If you start seeing negativity or bad attitudes in your formerly happy volunteers, ask yourself how long it has been since you’ve shown appreciation for their service.
  5. Don’t waste their time: Find specific tasks or jobs that fit each volunteer’s interests and talents. This can be difficult, but it’s important to keep them productive and feeling that their time served was not wasted.

Keeping volunteers engaged is an importnat aspect of managing them—and it takes leadership skills to do it successfully. If you’re struggling with leading volunteers, these tips are easy to implement. Try all five and see how quickly your relationship with your organization’s volunteers improve.


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