The tool that every volunteer coordinator needs

Managing Volunteers / Friday, August 22nd, 2014

How often has this happened to you – you interview a prospective volunteer, love their background, love what they offer, and love what they could bring to your movement, but you never hear from them beyond the initial interview? 

If this has happened to you (and I’m sure it has 🙂 I have a tool that you must have to nip ‘volunteer-fade’ in the bud.  See, after a prospective volunteer leaves your office, several questions are spinning through his/her head: will I really make a difference here with limited time?  How can I possibly help the people they’re serving?  Will I be valued? 

If you let these questions blossom into doubts, you’ve lost that volunteer, so the key is to proactively answer these questions for your prospective volunteer before that happens.  The best way to do this is with a follow up letter that addresses these concerns.  When used correctly, this strategy will dramatically reduce volunteer disappearance.  Here’s an example of a letter I’ve used effectively in the past:

Hi Michael,

I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with me today about the family partner program.  I truly believe your background, experiences, and heart for our families would be a tremendous asset to our work.  As you consider volunteering with us, it will be normal for you to wonder about the difference you can make with ‘limited’ time.  If those thoughts cross your mind, don’t worry!  Even those of us at this full-time ask those questions!  So, I have a little writing that I’d liketo share with you – it’s something I have hanging on my wall where it serves as a daily reminder for why I do what I do.  I hope that it will help ease any doubts you may have:

-If you’ve changed one life, you’ve changed the world.  I know the world faces massive challenges, and they can seem overwhelming, but the fact is – if you can change the trajectory of just one life, you’ve changed the trajectory of the world.  Remember this the next time you think the world is beyond saving.

-It’s more about consistency than the amount of time.  In social work, you will often feel like there is not enough time to solve all the world’s problems – and there isn’t!  So, it’s a good thing that consistency is what really matters.  As you serve people, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you can only devote 1 hour per week to them, but it DOES matter that you are consistent, reliable, and dependable. 

-Focus on what you’re best at.  You need to be sure that, in every way possible, you are seeking to serve others in your areas of strength.  Far too many change agents get burned out because they try to be all things to all people – don’t do this.  Know what you excel at, and serve the world in those areas.

-Keep things right with yourself, so that you can be right for others.  If you get burned out by trying to be all things to all people, you’ll be no things to no people.    

-Keep it Real.  I know at times, it may appear that the struggles our families face are insurmountable – but this is a marathon we’re in, not a sprint.  Be sure to laugh along the way, to sing, to cry, dance randomly, and never take yourself too seriously.  The people you serve will love you for this.

Thanks for reading Michael – I do hope that you will decide to join us as we work to change the world for the families we serve.