Volunteers are becoming more and more common to help us reach our goals. In the Air Force, there were always community activities that wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers. Even in business, there are additional activities outside of people’s job descriptions that require volunteers. If you work for a non-profit or a community service organization, volunteers are probably doing most of your mission. These tips for leading volunteers will help motivate and get the most out of the time you have with them.

Tips for Leading Volunteers #1 – Stay focused on Your Mission

If you’ve got volunteers helping you out, chances are they came because they have a connection to your cause. Reminding everyone who their work helping is a great way to get the ball rolling. This will keep everyone focused and will let them feel really great about themselves for showing up. Tell stories about the people you’re helping. Share fun facts about the organization throughout the day to give your volunteers something to connect with. Remind volunteers of their purpose to keep motivation high, even if the task isn’t fun or pleasant.

Tips for Leading Volunteers #2 – Find Out Why They Came

Everyone volunteering came for a reason. They might really believe in the cause. Some people are looking for something to get involved in but aren’t sure what. Maybe they just came with friends to help out. Understanding their reasons will give you insight on how you can best use them. Keep in mind the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, there’s a link below to our video we did on that a while back. It may take some time to figure out which tasks suit the different motivations of your volunteers. Once you figure it out, you’ll be able to maximize output by assigning jobs that are best aligned to motivations.

Tips for Leading Volunteers #3 – Assign Well-Defined Tasks

If you only have volunteers for a short period of time, give them tasks with clear end states. This helps give them a sense of accomplishment when they leave. This also works for long-term volunteers. Give these volunteers bigger jobs that take longer, but keep them clearly defined. These discreet tasks with a clear goal will help you get the most out of your volunteers. If they keep coming back for more, give them increasingly complex tasks.

Tips for Leading Volunteers #4 – Recognize People Often

Make sure you recognize these people who came out to help you with your cause. Give lots of praise throughout the day. When someone does something great, recognize them on the spot in front of the whole group. Come up with some fun awards to give at the end of the day to highlight the volunteers who really went above and beyond. Recognize everyone as a group in addition to any individuals. Talk about the impact that their efforts had, how many people will be helped, what that help means to those people and how it helps the community as a whole. Everyone loves to be recognized for their efforts, so show your appreciation often.

Volunteers are a key part of many organizations and communities. A lot of great work wouldn’t get done without them and as leaders, we need to recognize that people are choosing to spend their time with us when they could be doing something else. Follow these four tips and you’ll be able to keep your volunteers motivated and coming back for more!

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