Volunteer managers have great responsibilities. More so than other managers in many cases. When we engage volunteers we engage the community. This is not the same as engaging paid staff. Yes engaging paid staff incurs great responsibility. Your organisation prospers by keeping motivated staff. Having motivated and engaged staff is key to your organisations success.
Having motivated and engaged volunteers is even more important in my opinion as you are engaging a voice that has more freedom to speak. Volunteers provide a greater community buy in. Volunteers as I was once told many years ago by people who were scrutinizing my organization for accreditation purposes were the “eyes and ears of the organisation”
This is why I have for many years considered volunteers to be consumers and customers. Actually, what I mean to say is that I have tended to treat volunteers that way. I know some of you will jump up and down with that description but that is how I have treated volunteers and that is why I believe I have had great success in the recruitment and retention of volunteers.
Here is why:
· People can volunteer for a myriad of organisations. Volunteer managers need to sell their organisation
· People now volunteer for a myriad of reasons. The days of altruistic motivation as the only motivation for volunteering are long gone. Volunteer Managers need to capture this new breed of volunteering and sell why their organisations can accommodate same.
· Episodic volunteering has been the biggest trend that has impacted my volunteering programs. I know I must sell my organisational flexibility to entice these episodic volunteers. And it works!
Volunteer interviews should now be a two way street. While we still traditionally do the interview that seeks to determine what type of person or character we are engaging and whether or not their skills and attributes suit our organisation we are also needing to be interviewed by them on whether we are worthy of their donated time!
I once met a volunteer manager who “binned” applicants that did not meet his/her interest. And they never even heard from him/her.
Today in the social media age every move you make has the potential to be scrutinized. Think now about the consequences if you don’t reply to the following:
· An email request about your volunteer program
· A tweet about your volunteer program
· A Facebook message about your volunteer program
And have a think about how existing volunteers are communicating about your volunteer program and about your organisation!
Because if you work for a large or small organisation and one of your volunteers has a bad experience and if you don’t manage this effectively then you have the possibility of a social media savvy volunteer sharing their experience on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media outlet!
Imagine having a volunteer sing a song about their bad experience at your organization and it becoming a hit on YouTube!!!
Perish the thought!
A guy called Dave Carroll had a bad experience with United Airlines. He was a customer. They treated him badly. In fact they broke his guitar! He wrote a song, put in on YouTube and has had over 12 million views.
I am a great fan of Dave (he has some great songs apart from this hit). He is also one of the most genuine “stars’ I have come across! I have contacted him in the past and he has always personally taken the time to respond.
If we start treating our volunteers as customers we stand a better chance of retaining great people once we understand good customer service! And if we don’t get customer service we are behind the eight ball when it comes to volunteering!