A good place to begin is to reflect on your own experiences. If you have ever volunteered for short-term projects or for long-term assignments, your own experiences will tell you what you liked and didn’t like. When you treat the volunteers in your ministry how you like to be treated, you’ve built a solid foundation for creating a marvelous team of engaged volunteers to support your ministry.
As the volunteer coordinators for the past seven annual Unity People’s Conventions, here are 10 success tips we have learned about engaging volunteers:
1. See the Big Picture—Be clear about the volunteer positions that need to be filled.
2. Clarify What You Desire—Develop clear, specific, written job descriptions that provide a vivid picture of the volunteer positions.
3. Ask for What You Desire—Create a recruitment form that gives people in your congregation the opportunity to provide their volunteering priorities, availabilities and contact information.
4. Designate a Volunteer Coordinator—Assign a ministry staff member or volunteer to receive the recruitment forms and connect with your potential volunteers. This personal connection will help assure that talents, passions and availability align with volunteer job requirements.
5. Communicate Quickly and Often—Timely, loving communication is essential throughout the entire process. Quickly pass the forms on to the appropriate department leader(s) so that they can match the volunteer candidate’s priorities with the jobs available. Then communicate via phone or email within one week and extend an invitation to attend training. Your timeliness lets volunteer candidates know you care and appreciate them.
6. Provide Training—Facilitate a general training for all new volunteers, and let department leaders train the details to build your volunteers’ courage, confidence and competence.
7. Create an Agreement—Identify in writing your desires and expectations of your volunteers.
8. Monitor Progress—The volunteer coordinator and department leader(s) should oversee how the volunteer teams are being and functioning; make adjustments where necessary.
9. Celebrate—Share your appreciation during the entire process (e.g., verbal acknowledgment, badge/ribbon of honor, etc.). Reward volunteers with gifts, an appreciation breakfast, thank-you letters or cards, etc.
10. Systematize—Be well-organized and follow systematic procedures.
Remember how you like to be treated as a volunteer so you can effectively engage your congregants in supporting their community. You and your spiritual community will be blessed and richer for the experience.