Over the years, I have volunteered for a number of different organizations. And I’ve done it for a number of reasons: desire to help people in need, passion for a particular cause, and an interest in growing my community. Never once did I decide to do it because of a strong need to feel appreciated.
That said, I have a confession: when, at one organization, I felt frustrated over their poor communication and unresponsiveness, I lost the drive to continue giving my valuable time and talent. And, after repeated incidents of feeling like all of my work was just being sucked into a gaping void, I decided to step down.
Does this make me a bad person? Maybe a little. But I am also human and, from what I’ve heard, so are a lot of other people. Honestly, if we’re going to put forth an effort, most of us need to know what we’re doing is making some kind of difference.
If you’re an organization that thrives on the time, skills, and unpaid labor of volunteers, you know that these folks aren’t in it for money, fame, or recognition. But that doesn’t mean that they’re OK with working in a vacuum.
So, what can you do to ensure that your volunteers feel their work is worthwhile and meaningful? Show volunteer appreciation and cultivate an environment of growth and acknowledgement by offering:
Information: Above all, provide the proper tools, information, and feedback so your volunteers can be as effective as possible. This can be in the form of educational materials, newsletters and event calendars, and email updates.
Communication: Not only do you need to be available to answer questions and give direction; you also want to reinforce your goals, identify achievements and setbacks, and express a clear message that through everyone’s contributions, you are fulfilling your mission.
Appreciation: This is the easiest part. Say thanks for all you do. Say great job. Say you’re making a difference. Say together everyone achieves more. You don’t need to do it every day; but you really do need to do it.
With these tips, you're sure to inspire and motivate your volunteers. Let us know about your relationship with your volunteers—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in the comments below!