Creating An Authentically Healthy Volunteer Culture

You work really hard to create a healthy culture in your organization. You want your staff to be working toward the mission, and you want everything in your environment to be done really well. But do you take time to focus on the culture of your volunteers?

Chances are, you need volunteers in your organization in order to make things run smoothly. In many ministries, volunteers are the backbone of how you get anything done. You would be lost without them. But we often don’t consider our volunteers when looking at our overall plan of creating a healthy culture.

If you have volunteers who are contributing in any way to your environment and culture, then it is extremely important that you consider your volunteers.

How do you know if you have a healthy environment or if your volunteers are facing burnout? Here are a few questions to ask to help you evaluate.

  1. Are volunteers showing up? Or are they consistently missing scheduled times?
  2. Are volunteers inviting their friends to join them?
  3. Are they excited about helping?
  4. Do they continually complain? Or do they feel appreciated?

These can be difficult questions to ask. If you have never asked them, this might also seem a little overwhelming. But the good news it that there are ways to improve. It will require intentionality, but small changes can have a significant impact.

Volunteers are giving of their time to serve your mission. They have chosen to make an investment in your organization. Similar to donors who give monetarily, volunteers give with their heart and with who they are. This is something we can’t take lightly. People are very busy. They have full-time jobs, families, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and crazy schedules. This makes it even more important to make sure we are creating a healthy and vibrant culture for the time that they are choosing to invest with our organization.

So, how do we do this?

It starts with making every effort to recognize the importance of our volunteers. If volunteers are important to your overall mission, then it’s important to make sure they know this as well by creating a healthy culture. Here are a few guidelines to help:

Let volunteers know they are needed.

Be sure that volunteers know that you could not do what you do without them. Don’t make them feel like it is just something extra to do. Let them know you really need them to help accomplish your task.

Be ready for them.

There is usually nothing more frustrating to a volunteer than to show up and not have everything needed to do the job. Being unprepared is a way of expressing that you do not think their time is important enough to be prepared. This can be extremely irritating to volunteers and speaks volumes about what is important to you.

Let them know WHY it matters.

Be sure to cast vision for why what they are doing is important to the overall mission of the organization. Don’t just tell them what to do. Tell them the why behind what they are doing. This helps show them how important even the smallest of tasks are to complete.

Show them how to do it well.

Don’t be sloppy in showing them the position quickly. Take your time and show them how to do something really well. If excellence is important to you, make sure that you express this in your instructions.

Let them know that you care.

This is so important. Truly care about your volunteers. Be thankful for them. Tell them in person, or send them a thank-you note. Celebrate them and let them know that they are cared for by you and your staff.

These steps will go a long way toward helping to create a healthy volunteer culture and allowing people to be a part of the bigger mission. Remember, this takes time and practice. It most likely won’t drastically change overnight, but you will see progress as you continue to focus on these areas.

How do you create a healthy volunteer culture in your organization?

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