Be understanding when volunteers miss a day and be sure to recognize their return to the project afterward. Remember, volunteers are participating out of the goodness of their hearts and no amount of respect and admiration is too much.
2. Praise and recognize accomplishments
Volunteers rarely give their time to receive recognition, however that shouldn’t stop you from heaping on the praise when you get the chance. Whether this praise is public or private, it doesn’t cost you a dime and can pay dividends over the course of a season.
Note, the end-of-season banquet is great opportunity to thank and commend all the parents who willingly gave their time and energy toward making the swim team experience better for everyone. A heartfelt thank you really goes a long way and will improve your chances to have them return next season.
3. Build community
Often a bi-product of praise and recognition, a sense of community can often develop within volunteer organizations. The more comfortable volunteers feel, the more relaxed they will be and the more likely it is that they’ll be productive members capable of exceeding your expectations. That said, there are plenty of ways you can go above and beyond to help foster this sense of community. Consider offering them “extras” while they’re not actively volunteering. Things like BBQs or other social activities can go a long way in reducing volunteer turnover, something that plagues many organizations.
4. Hold regular meetings
Early on meetings provide volunteers with direction when beginning their new role with the organization. Later, these meetings will keep them in the loop should they not be directly involved with a particular project. It will also allow them opportunities to provide input, which should ultimately lead to a more cohesive organization.
5. Be flexible and accommodating
We want to reiterate that volunteers are participating out of the goodness of their hearts, and are often taking on this role in addition to their careers and family. Because of this, it’s important to recognize that this position will take a back seat to other responsibilities.
That said, being clear on responsibilities, expectations and any critical deadlines that could affect other areas of the organization is important and should be communicated as such.
6. Create well defined roles and hold people accountable
In addition to communicating responsibilities to volunteers, having clearly defined roles in an organization helps everyone to work more efficiently. Whether these roles are clearly defined in your organization’s constitution, volunteer manual or done more informally through a conversation or email, each member should have a written description of their role readily available for them to review. If you’re looking for an acronym to help you with accountability, consider using the following:
S = Set expectations
I = Invite commitment
M = Measure progress
P = Provide feedback
L = Link to consequences
E = Evaluate effectiveness
7. Streamline communication
Smart phones are everywhere which can be both an opportunity and a potential pitfall at the same time. Understand that your members are likely bombarded with texts, emails and calls from their job, their family and dozens of marketers every day. Making the information they need to accomplish their duties readily available should be an important piece of your communication strategy. So unless you’d like to be answering emails all hours of the day, consider making this information available online by using a mobile-friendly content management system.
8. Lead by example
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, lead your volunteers by example. Don’t demand anything from your volunteers that you yourself wouldn’t be willing to do. By all means, feel free to be directive, but it is imperative to jump in and get your hands dirty with your volunteers to show them you are willing to work hard, too.