Tips for motivating volunteers

motivating volunteers

This week we’ve spoken with Emma Vizor, Volunteer Coordinator at Crisis Skylight South Yorkshire. She's worked with volunteers since 2008 as well as having  a variety of volunteer roles . She is taking us through tips for finding and bringing in volunteers as well as the crucial how to motivate your volunteers.

Emma was recommended to us by other third sector organisations, as someone who is highly regarded for her skills and knowledge about motivating and managing volunteers – we thought it would be great to hear from her how she manages her role and what she thinks creates great volunteer motivation.

As with many third sector roles, the journey to volunteer management was not direct, but once Emma started to work with volunteers she discovered that she had a real passion for it-

I got into working with volunteers when I started as a Development Worker and Trainer for Victim Support. Part of my role was delivering volunteer training on how to support victims of a variety of crimes and I loved it. It was so rewarding to meet people who wanted to make a difference to people’s lives and from there I knew I would always choose to work in the voluntary sector.

Reading about these types of roles, they are often spoken of in the abstract without any introduction to the variety of differing examples of volunteer management roles, we asked Emma to talk us through her day

My time varies greatly. On a daily basis I can be working on volunteer recruitment, delivering volunteer training, developing our volunteer offer, supporting our volunteer supervisors and supporting our member volunteers as interview volunteers and member ambassadors (clients who are ready to volunteer with us). The last three tasks I did with volunteers were:
• Supporting a panel of interview volunteers to do mock interviews with clients who were looking to get into work
• Delivering a classroom skills training session to our classroom and admin volunteers
• Supporting one of our member ambassadors to speak at a conference in Leeds and prepare to speak at a supporter event for Crisis in London
I love how varied my role can be, that you never know what the next week holds as things are often ad hoc and get a real buzz from seeing volunteers enjoy what they are doing and the difference they can make. Recently, working with our member ambassadors and interview volunteers has been a really rewarding time.

We would be really interested to hear from you about your role, are you a full time volunteer manager? Or is this a part of the many hats you have to wear?

So what does good volunteer management look like?

Good volunteer management for me is making sure you take the time out for your volunteers when they need it, saying thank you and making sure they know the difference they are making. It is also about honesty and integrity and recognising the potential in someone. Good communication is key, as well as keeping volunteers up to date and involved in the organisations work. I guess an example I would give is when you have someone who wants to volunteer in a role, who may not have quite the experience you were hoping for but has the enthusiasm and potential – investment of a little bit of time and you see them grow, reach that potential and gain buckets of confidence, whilst making a difference to the service. Volunteering is a two-way process after all and I always find it rewarding to see how a volunteer grows in their role and becomes an integral part of your team.

Tips for finding and recruiting volunteers

• Personal contact makes a difference – if you have a phone number for someone interested in volunteering speak to them. I find the ones that tend to end up applying, attending interview and doing the role are the ones I have spoken to initially.
• Manage expectations about what the role is and isn’t and boundaries of the role – use the role description and invest time in inducting your volunteers – it saves time and stress in the long run
• Be flexible wherever you can
• Work with your local Volunteer Centres – they are a fantastic source of help and support, as well as advertising of roles
• Don’t expect to fill all your roles overnight or feel you haven’t done the job right if you don’t. The voluntary sector is very competitive these days and it can take time to find the right volunteers for your roles.

5 tips for motivating your volunteers

1. Let people know the difference they would be making when advertising your volunteer role
2. Ask the right questions at the volunteer interview/chat so you understand their motivations from the beginning
3. Get to know your volunteer as a person
4. Ensure you recognise what they are doing for your organisation and regularly acknowledge it but know your volunteer well enough to know how they want it to be recognised, for example some volunteers don’t like public recognition but a quiet thank you keeps them motivated
5. Offer opportunities for volunteers to come together and share experiences – this can often be motivating, but understand if a volunteer does not want to participate in this

And Finally some DON'T's

• Don’t do it if you are not passionate about the contributions volunteers can make.
• Whilst it is fantastic someone wants to support your organisation and give up their time, don’t accept someone as a volunteer if they really are not right for the role – this can lead to problems in the long-term and the volunteer getting a bad impression of your organisation and of volunteering. Better to explain why they are not right for you and offer them alternatives –other suitable organisations or the local volunteer centre as they could be the perfect volunteer for somewhere else.
• Don’t waste a volunteer’s time – everyone’s time is precious so make sure you have planned for your volunteer coming in to do their role. If a role is ad hoc ensure the volunteer is clear on this so they don’t think you are not using them and keep in touch with them.
• Don’t put off dealing with a difficult situation with a volunteer – it may well get worse if you do. Best to be honest and hopefully resolve it in a way that suits both parties.

We would like to thank Emma Vizor for bringing her knowledge and experience and sharing it with our community - Shared Know How in action! Let us know your thoughts and comments below or on Facebook or twitter or via an email – we’d love to hear from you, whether this has inspired you? If you have ideas to add or examples to add.

volunteers, HRSophy Hallam