How Management Fails Volunteers
While volunteers are the lifeblood of many organizations, some volunteer programs don't live up to their potential because management fails them. Unfortunately, the training and supervision of volunteers are often taken for granted -- to everyone's detriment. Here are four ways management fails volunteer programs and how you can turn the tide.
1. A volunteer doesn't get a paycheck. That changes the playing field. Managers who treat volunteers like employees fail to appreciate this fundamental difference. Managers can place expectations on employees who are paid to do a job. The understood rule: If you don't perform, you don't get paid. Volunteers give their time, often receiving nothing in return. That gives them the unwritten right to set limitations on what they are willing to do.
2. Volunteering is a one-way street. Management should travel it courteously. Managers who treat volunteers disrespectfully fail to recognize the power of goodwill. The volunteer relationship is unique in its one-sided aspect. Volunteers enter an agreement knowing they will do all the giving and the organization will do nothing but take. That knowledge should move managers to make every effort to ensure volunteers feel appreciated. The most obvious way to accomplish this is to be nice. A less conspicuous show of appreciation is how management trains volunteers.
3. Volunteer training is a win-win. Managers who don't adequately train volunteers fail to understand the impact of mutual respect. Managers who take time to train their volunteers are choosing to invest in them. Through that decision, a manager conveys his belief that volunteers have value: the volunteers are worth the manager's time. A volunteer who feels valued will be loyal. A well-trained volunteer needs less supervision and can confidently meet the needs of clients.
4. Clients should never have to be patient with volunteers. Managers who assign volunteers arbitrarily fail to grasp how significantly interactions with volunteers influence clients. When a client has to be patient with a volunteer's attitude or actions, poor management is afoot. When the client has to be patient with a volunteer's actions, the volunteer is not properly trained. When the client has to endure a volunteer's attitude, the volunteer was either not properly screened or not well-matched to his post. Not every volunteer is suited to every volunteer opportunity. In addition to a volunteer's skill set, a wise manager also considers the volunteer's personality and preferences before deciding where to assign him.
Supervisors who don't understand how to lead volunteers will experience employee conflict and client complaints, but managers who master the art of training volunteers will reap rewards. How does your organization's volunteer program rate?