Finding Appreciation for All Volunteers

Posted on 01/23/2013

What’s a camel? It’s a horse designed by committee.

Working with volunteers who sit on boards, councils and committees can take a lot of effort and energy. The hope is that you provide them with support and, in return, they give back their time, talents, and treasures. But working with volunteers isn’t always easy and it’s rarely efficient. Next time your feeling frustrated, consider the following:

  • Everyone has at least one good idea. Consider it your job to uncover it. Be a good listener.
  • Information leads to better decisions. Give them data and show them trends. Help them understand what their peers are doing. Benchmarks can be enlightening and motivating.
  • People (whether they show it or not) don’t want to be alone. In fact, they’re driven by a desire to belong to something bigger than themselves. Remind them (often) of the greater mission that you all share.
  • Ideas become real when someone owns them. Help them take ownership of ideas, even if those ideas originated somewhere else.

So, if you feel like you’ve been handed a camel when you were expecting a horse, stop and consider the significance of volunteers. Indeed, working with volunteers is not always easy. Their schedules, styles, and methods (both as individuals and as a collective body) may not always be matched up with yours. Their goals, on the other hand, should be.

And remember, whether they’re simply showing up or they’re writing a check, this is someone who is doing something because they want to, not because they’re required to. That’s powerful stuff and it’s your job to harness it.

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