Non-profits are fascinating to me. You cannot lead by positional-style, that is by titles and tenure, but by true leadership skills and passion for the cause.

Any number of causes exist today and too many to count. Equally great is the need for competent managers, staff and volunteers. My hope in this forum is for experienced and novice managers juggling low paying staff worth their weight in gold to share battle scars. To share insight. To share victories and resources propelling them forward.

How do you balance retaining those golden team members, say "no thanks" to the weak links, and reward those volunteers while remaining sane.

So, pull out your iPads, top your mochas and share away.

bug_girl's picture

We've been successful for two reasons:

1. We have people who are passionately committed to our cause (nature conservation, etc) and will volunteer no matter who is in the office.

2. Hiring some AMAZING staff who are able to create relationships with volunteers and keep them coming back.

The "flake rate" is a term one of my directs coined about how in of any group of new volunteers, some of them will inevitably drop out or dissapear.  That's just the reality of people having unpredictable lives, or discovering that volunteering for you isn't quite what they had in mind.   We don't have to say "no thanks" very often, since people just drop out on their own.

The majority of our volunteers are retirees, but we also have some kids doing court-appointed service, and people with disability leave from work.

Generally, we don't have to do much or any corrective feedback, other than monitoring to keep the kids on task.

The one thing I'm careful to do is to always say Thank You! and to make sure they know we couldn't keep our doors open without them. 

(They also get to see little kids having a lot of fun outside, which helps :)



ChrisOK's picture

I'd really value some more discussion (or a cast!) on this topic.

While in Volunteer Organisations you can have some role power, I find that role power is greatly reduced (you don't control their addiction to food clothing and shelter, but you can have some control over their involvement in something they love). That does have an impact on using some Manager Tools

O3s may require role power to get started. Without that, I've had to resort to expertise power ("I think these will make us much more effective"). Relationship power is helpful too, but if your relationship is that strong you may already have what O3s are trying to produce.

Feedback - I suspect that the peer feedback model is the way to go, again because of the lack of role power.

Delegation - Counter-intuitively, I think that asking more from volunteers is actually really helpful. I'm a high S, so it's not in my nature at all. I'd rather listen to them and make sure they're not feeling overworked. However, people are usually volunteering because they care for the cause. So it's OK to ask them to do things that will benefit that cause. As long as you take the time so they can see those benefits, they'll often say yes. I suppose delegation is generally asking people to voluntarily do something they don't have to, so I probably shouldn't be surprised.

Coaching is a big part of how I sell O3s. When you can't insist on them coming, helping people see how the time will actually benefit them seems a good way to go.

That's my take on the 'trinity' and volunteers. I'm new to this (only a month or so into O3s, so I haven't even rolled out feedback yet) and only halfway through listening to the casts (200 down in ~six months isn't too bad). I'm sure I have a lot still to learn, and would love to see the input of some veterans on this.