Keeping Volunteers Happy

This week is National Volunteer Week so we thought it would be appropriate to have a blog post on the topic. Now in its 26th year, this special week is dedicated to celebrating volunteers and volunteerism in Australia. Over six million Australians volunteer across our country and this week provides an opportunity to highlight their role and to say thank you.

Here at Fish, we are delighted to have this guest blog from Adrienne Picone, the CEO of Volunteering Tasmania:

In a period where community organisations are expected to get more results on less money, the onus on attracting volunteers and keeping them engaged and happy, will be even greater. How do organisations ensure that they are ‘filling up the volunteer’s tanks’ and not just depleting them?

This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week, Give Happy, Live Happy shines a spotlight on the benefits of volunteering for the volunteer, with 96% of volunteers saying that it ‘makes them happier’.

The reality is that volunteers may give time without expectation of financial reward but they still need to get something in return for their efforts. Here are 5 tips to ensure your volunteers are happy:

1) Understand why they are there

Broadly speaking volunteers fall into two categories – those that are called to your organisation because they are attracted to your cause, and those that want to learn or contribute skills. Volunteers that are motivated by a connection to the mission will want to hear about impact of their work. However, volunteers that are motivated by skill need to know that they are adding to their resume or are utilising their existing skills.

2) Provide feedback

Weeks such as National Volunteer Week provide opportunities for some high profile appreciation but every single day provides opportunities for gratitude. Whether it is through words, actions, certificates or involvement in planning, tell volunteers the difference they make.

3) Speak and listen

Effective, respectful and authentic communication is at the heart of every relationship. Ask them about their preferred communication style, is it telephone, face to face, social media or email? Be prepared to be creative in the way that you both provide and receive information.

4) Volunteer development

Provide regular and meaningful opportunities for volunteers to grow and develop.

5) Be prepared to let them go

At the core of every great volunteer experience is the power of choice. The pressure on organisations to get quality results on limited resources can mean that once we have a group of volunteers we can be desperate to make sure we keep them. The most effective programs take a volunteers needs into account and allow them flexibility to leave at any time knowing that the door is always open.

The focus is often on what the community gets from the volunteer effort, but this year during National Volunteer Week spare a thought for what we can give the volunteers and how we can keep this essential workforce motivated, happy and thriving.

Some fabulous advice here for all charities from Adrienne. Let’s try and look at things a little differently when it comes to our volunteers.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick

VT logoAdrienne Picone is the CEO of Volunteering Tasmania (VT) and is responsible for the day to day management of the organisation and ensuring that they deliver on their strategic goals. Adrienne reports directly to the VT Board. She is passionate about all things volunteerism and strives to ensure that volunteering is universally acknowledged as being integral to the social, economic and cultural cohesion of our community. You can contact Adrienne at AdrienneP@volunteeringtas.org.au.

Message from a Happy Volunteer

In light of National Volunteer Week that came to a close yesterday, I’d like to share a message with you from a lovely young woman I met last month when I traveled to Bali. Although the time we spent together wasn’t all that long, with the commonalities in both our approach to life and keen interest in making a difference in the world, I believe we formed a friendship that will last for years.

Lauren Moss is a kind-hearted, twenty-something, big-dreaming gal who has had vast experience in the world of volunteering both in paid roles in volunteer management and as a volunteer herself. In this post, Lauren shares with us her advice on keeping your volunteers happy:

When it comes to volunteering there are a lot of things that can go right and a lot of things that can go wrong. It is extremely important to get all the pieces of the volunteering jigsaw in place before accepting volunteers into your organisation. So, with that being said, here are five tips on how to keep your volunteers happy, master these and you will be off to a great start!

1. Be prepared for your volunteers
The worst thing is walking into an organisation as a volunteer, excited to help in whatever way you can and having no guidance. Make sure you have a great volunteer handbook explaining everything in detail that is sent out before your volunteer’s arrival, this way they will already be aware of what to expect from you and what you expect from them. Also, have a really good welcome and induction. You need to make sure your volunteers feel comfortable from the get-go and that all queries and concerns are cleared up as early as possible.

Volunteer message 22. Tap into volunteer motives
Everyone volunteers for different reasons and it is important to know those reasons and look for ways that you can satisfy them. Find out what their skills are and why they are wanting to be part of your organisation, that way you can really get the most out of every person and that will keep both you and them very happy.

3. Communication is key!
Regular communication is motivating for volunteers and a lack of it will be sure to stop them helping out. Volunteers like to have a particular person to look to, so make sure you have a very good Volunteer Co-ordinator in place who can be there to respond to concerns immediately. I would also suggest having a volunteer feedback form so you have a record of what your volunteers think about your organisation and your volunteering program, this way you will always have ideas on how to improve.

4. Show appreciation
People who volunteer want to make a difference in the World and they want to feel that is happening when they’re volunteering for you. The best ways to do this are to make sure they know they are doing work that is vital to keeping your organisation running, giving thanks often and making them feel as valuable as your paid staff. A really good tip would be to have an event dedicated to your volunteers every year to say thank you for all their hard work!

5. Make volunteering fun!
Volunteer message 1Remember that people are giving up their time for your organisation and not getting paid for it. Of course they will want to work hard but it is also really important to make sure they really enjoy the time that they are volunteering for you. Have a variety of tasks for them to do, maybe you need them to do some office organisation but then you might need that same person (who is a great photographer) to take photos for your upcoming newsletter. By giving a mixture of tasks you will be sure to get the very best out of everyone.

Lauren has had some great experiences on both sides of the volunteering coin and her insights here could really help make a difference in your organisation if you are in the fortunate position to have the support of volunteers. Thanks so much for sharing this important message about volunteers with Fish, Lauren, we appreciate it!

See you in the Pond,

The Fish Chick

P.S.  A bit more about Lauren…  From managing volunteers as a Wishgranter and then as Events & Challenges Fundraiser at Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, to being fully immersed into the volunteering world herself as a teacher in Ghana and a volunteer coordinator at an orphanage in Bali. Lauren is still on her journey to find her purpose on this planet but getting closer every day, read more about her by visiting http://www.perfectlyimperfectuk.wordpress.com.