The Webster Dictionary defines volunteer as “a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service: as a : one who enters into military service voluntarily b (1) : one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest.”
But volunteers are so much more than that. We are an extraordinary group of people devoted to improving not only our own life, but the lives of those around us. We work hard in what we do, even though we may not always receive recognition. We understand the importance of giving back to the community, and helping those who need it the most.
Leading this special group of people is no easy feat. It takes someone who is organized and can handle stressful situations. It is someone who is able to recognize the hard work of the volunteers. And most importantly, it takes someone who can inspire others on the importance of giving back to the community.
Stressful situations are bound to happen when leading volunteers. Communication and being organized are vital in preventing these unfortunate circumstances. Organizing and dividing up tasks for the volunteers is required in making sure everything gets accomplished and the volunteer’s time is not wasted. Communication between the site and volunteers is necessary in making sure volunteers understand their role and to stop any problems before they occur. Errors in scheduling, not enough volunteers at an event, or too many volunteers and not enough work are all possible situations for a volunteer leader, but through communication and organization, these problems can be reduced drastically.
In order to make the volunteering experience with the organization both meaningful and memorable, a connection with the volunteers should be made. This connection starts when matching the qualifications and interests of the volunteer with an activity where they can strive and make the site even better. Throughout their time volunteering, it’s important to connect with the volunteer to ensure they know the organization truly appreciates the time they devote and the work they do really does make a difference. By doing so, this will help to leave a positive volunteer experience and will hopefully inspire them to volunteer in future. Making a connection is also important with potential volunteers as a volunteer leader can help an individual understand the value of volunteering and motivate change in the community.
Recognition of the volunteer’s hard work and devotion to an organization is also an important piece of leading volunteers. And it doesn’t always mean having awards and ceremonies. A simple thank you can go a long way. It is also important for volunteers to be recognized in the community. According to Independent Sector, the estimated value of volunteer time was $21.79 per hour. This is an enormous impact volunteers are making the community, and the community should be aware of all the hard work they are doing. In order to have the community recognize this impact, leaders of volunteers should be collecting information on volunteer numbers and hours. Not only will this information be very helpful when presenting at community meetings to share the impact of volunteers, but also in the recruitment of new volunteers.
Volunteer leaders are in a unique position where they can inspire change in individual volunteers and truly make a difference in someone’s life. Their job is anything but easy, but through communication and recognizing the hard work of the individuals they really can make a giant impact in the community and improve the lives of so many people.
Veronica Kneeland, MAVA VISTA 2012-2013