Making the Most of Your Volunteers

managing volunteers


Estimated read time: 3 minutes


Volunteers join our organisations enthusiastic and willing to contribute their time and commitment. How are you ensuring that you make the most of them? Here are some suggestions:


Look for ways to build the trust and respect in your organisation. This is the core foundation for building positive working relationships. Put it on your next meeting agenda and ask your volunteers for their suggestions.


Make regular and effective communication a priority. This is essential for working successfully in any team/group. Find different ways to communicate your message and don’t just rely on one form of communication. Ask your volunteers what their preferred form of communication is. Always ensure you communicate with clarity to ensure there are no gaps.


Find out what skills, knowledge and experience your volunteers bring to your organisation. We all have different attributes and qualities that we can contribute, so find out what your volunteers strengths are and how can you utilise them. Here is a brief summary of what different people will be good at in your organisation:-


  • Volunteers who are results orientated will be good at problem solving, challenges
    and projects.
  • Volunteers who are talkers will be good at motivating, promoting, gaining sponsorship and selling ideas/services.
  • Volunteers who are quiet people are deep thinkers will be methodical and slow paced and like to work as part of a team.
  • Volunteers who are careful and accurate like to complete tasks and will be good at paperwork for example budgets and anything that requires attention to detail.


Build long term capability and sustainability in your organisation. You can do this by having specific job descriptions and clearly defined expectations of your volunteers. Ensure that you are honest about the time and commitment that is required from your volunteers.


Does your organisation have a strategic plan that clearly identifies how your volunteers can work to support you to achieve your organisation’s goals? A strategic plan is an important document that is specific and measurable and provides focus and direction with short, medium and long term goals. It must also have the buy in from the organisation and not be driven by one or few individuals.


The welcoming process and orientation and training of volunteers is vital to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to ask questions, and identify areas that they need support in. How good is your welcoming process, what will your volunteers see, hear and feel when they come into your group, first impressions are everything. Do you have an induction pack? Check in regularly with your volunteers to see how they are going, you can do this informally or formally. Check in with them eight weeks after they have joined and ask if they have any questions or queries. What provision have you made for the training needs of your volunteers?


Celebrate your achievements no matter how big or small, too often we only see how far we have to go not how far we have already come. Remember to show your volunteers that you value their contributions, ideas and commitment to your organisation. There are many ways to say thank you, be creative.


Build relationships by taking the time to get to know each other. It can be as simple as using icebreakers at your meetings. I suggest that you plan for two team building events a year. In our busy lives we have forgotten how important it is to make a connection with the people we work with.


Finally remember that in any organisation people are your best asset, so it’s important to look after them and show them you appreciate and value what they bring to your organisation.

Avatar About Jenny Gray

Jenny Gray is the CEO of the Team Building Company NZ and has 27 years of experience working with the volunteer sector. Jenny has specific expertise in leadership and uses real stories and humour along with her skills, knowledge and experience to motivate and inspire people to be the best leaders they can be.

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