Knowing ahead of time what you want to accomplish with volunteers sets both you and them up for success.
We’ve got squad goals, relationship goals, personal goals, soccer goals…you name it. So can you tell me what your volunteer goals are?
You have a number of people present and ready to help, so what’s the goal? They may have their own motivations for being there and thoughts on how they can best help, but what do you think? What are you hoping to accomplish through each individual volunteer and with the volunteer group as a whole?
Make a plan
Before things get crazy or overrun by too many cooks in the kitchen, outline your goals. What needs do you have? What can be accomplished by volunteers and what needs to be done by staff or by someone with a certain level of credentials? Outside of the actual assigned volunteer tasks, are you hoping to recruit and retain more volunteers? Are you trying to make a splash in the community or gain corporate partnerships? How do the goals you set out for your volunteers align with the mission of the organization?
Ask for areas of interest
Now that you have an idea of what you are hoping to accomplish, what is it that your volunteers want? You can’t read minds, so go ahead and ask them! Send out a survey to get to know your volunteers to understand what makes them tick. Or, include a checklist of areas they may be interested in or experienced with during the volunteer registration process. Not only will they have certain areas of interest, but volunteers may have extra motivation to be there to network or bolster a particular skill set. Be careful to align expectations and not overpromise. Sometimes you want more than anything to say this volunteer experience will look great on a resume or that they can volunteer wherever they want, but that’s not always realistic. You can only have so many social media managers on a volunteer team, or sometimes a volunteer experience will benefit the community more than their resume.
Consider the big picture
You may have primary goals like accomplishing the tasks at hand but keep in mind secondary goals like volunteer retainment and recruitment. Sure, you need to pass out water to all the runners, but you want to make this volunteer experience a memorable and enjoyable one. Likewise, volunteers may have primary goals like learning a new skill or rubbing elbows with musicians, but if those can’t be met, make sure you give them a glimpse of the big picture, too. They need to know how their involvement makes an impact and how their primary goals can be achieved in the future.
As a volunteer coordinator, you can’t get too bogged down in the individual needs and wants of every person on the team, because it’s almost impossible to keep everyone happy. Making sure your goals and the goals of your volunteers align with the mission of the organization helps keep everyone in check with what’s to be expected and what’s realistic.
Writing up a list of defined goals for volunteers usually isn’t a difficult task, but it does take time and thought. Make sure to take the time to think through what you want for volunteers and what they might want from you. Then, back it up with feedback from volunteers to make sure you’re all on the same page. Comparing and contrasting your goals and the goals of your volunteers might provide clarity on what your goals are and what they aren’t.
You may not hit every goal every year, but providing some benchmarks will help you plan and prepare for this year and for years to come.