Making Volunteers Productive

Unproductive volunteers – perhaps as a result of poor planning

An executive director of a global non-profit approached me all excited; he has solicited for volunteers across the country who would donate their time and talent to his non-profit as part of a volunteer task force. He asked me assist him in structuring this task force. His first inclination was the get the 24 people into a huge teleconference and basically discuss what they all wanted to do. I stopped him in his tracks and suggested that we would end up with a free-for-all “group grope” with nothing getting done. I asked him to take a step back and work with me on a much more prescribed approach.

First, I asked him to succinctly describe the mission and objective of his non-profit.

Second, I asked him to define his roles and responsibilities as executive director and the roles and responsibilities of his board of directions.

Then third, I asked him to within the context of the first two items, define the types of ways he wants volunteers to assist. What kinds of things does he want them to do?

Fourth, I asked him to look through the resume information submitted by the volunteers to understand their particular gifts and talents, and how they match up with the tasks he wants assistance with.

Then I asked him to match smaller subsets of the 24 volunteers and their talents with the tasks he wants done.

Engaged Volunteers!

Now this executive director has a half a dozen small teams of volunteers working enthusiastically and productively on specific tasks he asked them each to do, and they are all making significant task contributions to the non-profit and are all enthused about how they are helping. And once a month we get all the small groups together to share in the contributions we are each making to the non-profit.

Bottom line – the way to most productively engage volunteers is to know what you need done in light of your mission and what other responsibilities are already assigned, match the needs you have to the background and talents of the volunteers, and then ask them do specific meaty projects that match their desires and talents.