|Posted by Stephen Lemire on August 24, 2012 at 9:55 AM|
Not only have I been an executive director for a number of different nonprofits that relied on its volunteer board of directors as well as some volunteer staff, I have also served as a volunteer board member and staffer at other organizations. Aside from their major responsibilities and roles within the nonprofit, it is important, many times, to recognize that they are all volunteers when thinking about major concepts such as recruitment, retention, satisfaction, and performance.
What I have learned as an Executive Director
It's helpful for nonprofits to focus on their volunteers as individuals rather than as a group. With this in mind, it is useful to recognize that there are many varied reasons why volunteers participate (to further the mission, to use their skills, to feed their ego, to network, to socialize, etc.). If you are able to best recognize the individual's primary reason for volunteering then you can place them in the most appropriate setting(s) which will hold their interest, make them feel valued, and keep them coming back to be productive.
(There are, however, some group considerations such as a founding board which can be unique.
What I require to be an effective volunteer Board Member
Assure that my role is focused on the big picture
Do not allow me to feel that my time, effort, nor energy is being wasted
Provide me with needed information in advance of meetings to help me be prepared
Present me only with actionable items, not reports
Make my opinions matter – that they be considered, not necessarily implemented
Make me feel respected
Identify my unique skills versus those of other board members
Do not duplicate my efforts with those of other board members
Do not consider me to just be a blank check
Do not expect me to serve on too many standing committees
Help me to continually become a better board member – provide board development
What I require to be a productive Volunteer Staffer
Help me see the big picture that I am contributing to
Make me feel appreciated
Make me feel like part of the organization, not an appendage
Assign me to specific tasks and responsibilities
Teach me how to do a certain job, if needed
Do not have me go through the motions or waste my time
Do not duplicate my efforts with those of other volunteers
Help me to continually become a better volunteer – provide training
Volunteers can be the lifeblood for so many nonprofits. How they are treated will go a long way to determine whether or not they keep coming back, if they bring others to volunteer with them, whether or not they have positive things to say about your organization, and, ultimately, if they are productive.