Transparency is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days – from self-help books, to articles on workplace culture, to relationship goals – and for good reasons. One of which being that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. Transparent managers are proven to foster better workplace relationships, better employee alignment with company vision, and higher performance & engagement rates.
Now that I’ve sold you on all the reasons you should want to be transparent (I totally did that, right?) let’s take a step back. Transparency means “easy to perceive or detect” and, when describing an organization, “open to public scrutiny.” (That second one might sound a little frightening – don’t worry, we’ll get there.) In other words, being clear and open with your volunteers.
Here are six ways to promote transparency with your volunteers and encourage all the great community-building benefits I mentioned above:
1. Explain Your Decisions
Many of your decisions may seem implied or obvious because you have the advantage of knowing the big-picture. But to your volunteers, a decision may seem sudden or leave them feeling like they don’t know where they stand. When possible, concisely explain what prompted the decision or what specific event or organization goal you hope the decision will help accomplish. This will contextualize the decision for your volunteers and also reinforce your broader mission.
2. Define Volunteer and Staff Roles
There are few things more frustrating than showing up to volunteer at an event and not knowing what you will be doing. Try including role descriptions in the signup process. These can be brief, but give an idea of what the person will be doing during their allotted time. Then, send a follow-up email explaining relevant information like: where to go, who on staff will be available prior to and during the event, and any other things your volunteer would benefit from knowing.
3. Personally Acknowledge Your Volunteers
Make it a point for you or another staff member to check in with volunteers throughout the day. Greet them when they arrive. Ask them how the day is going. And when you see a volunteer doing a great job – tell them! People like to know where they stand with others, especially their supervisors. Make an effort to let your volunteers know they are seen, heard, and appreciated.
4. Make Yourself Available
Make it easy for your volunteers to contact you or other event organizers and staff members. If there are multiple staff working on the event, include who to contact for different questions or concerns. And finally, include ways to contact supervisors the day of the event for last minute clarifications.
5. Encourage (and Invite) Criticism
Criticism is not always bad and it doesn’t have to be scary! (Here’s where that “open to public scrutiny” comes into play.) Positive and negative feedback is just that – feedback. Give your volunteers a way to talk about their experience and provide criticism. Then, allow yourself to depersonalize their thoughts and consider them without getting offended. There are so many ways you can make it easy for people to do this: send out a survey, ask them in person, follow up via email and ask what could be improved – however you want to ask, just make sure you do it.
6. Own When You Are Wrong
Whew! I saved a tough one for last but trust me, how you fail is so much more important than the actual failure itself. Admit that you were wrong, address the shortcoming with the offended party (in person or on the phone if possible), and genuinely express your intent & plan to correct course.
There you have it. Transparency doesn’t happen overnight, but with time, as you model these practices, you will increase trust and retention within your volunteer program.