“The best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned.
When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
If you’re already talking about the morale of your volunteer team, it must be at a critical spot. If not, you may sense it’s heading in the wrong direction and you want to do something now before it really becomes an issue. Most of us, however, are probably in a more uncertain position. We simply don’t know what the morale of our team is, but we certainly want it to be positive. Here are 10 steps you can take to help gauge and boost volunteer morale.
Survey Your Team
Surveys are the opposite of exciting and will not improve morale on their own, but they will allow you to get a pulse on your volunteer team to see where they are. Create a short survey with open-ended questions so you can learn their perspective. Before your share it, emphasize how much you care about their opinion and why you want to hear from them.
Meet and Listen
A survey will give you a quick pulse on your team, but the best way to assess the current morale is to hear from people individually. This is time consuming, but there are no quick fixes in building team morale. Meeting and listening to volunteers will give us a great understanding of team morale, but it will also help boost morale. People feel valued when they feel heard. Listening to our volunteers will encourage them going forward.
Prune If Necessary
In some cases, there are specific volunteers who are dragging team morale down because of their attitude or disagreement around vision. In those cases, their negativity and disunity spread to others on the team. It becomes necessary to have them step down in order for the team to become unified and healthy again. Sure, it will be hard to lose volunteers when you already need more, but they’re doing more harm than good by staying on the team.
Inspire Them With Vision
Nothing helps inspire people more than when they feel like they’re making a difference. Sometimes, that’s hard to see as a volunteer. Take every opportunity you can to remind them of the importance of what they do. Do it in a variety of ways. Email about it. Gather them in a huddle before they serve and talk to them. Make a video and send it out for them to see. Talk about why they matter in every training you do for them.
Casting vision yourself is critical, but stories of how your team is succeeding might cast vision more than anything else. Create a habit of asking for stories about “wins” every time volunteers are gathered. Early on, it will require patience as people won’t be used to sharing and won’t remember stories to share. As you create a habit, they’ll learn to look for stories and save them to share when you ask. Help the team celebrate celebrate wins together, so they’re not just focused on themselves.
Set Goals and Come Back to Them
Team morale can be low when nobody feels like they’re winning. Often times, they actually are doing a great job, they just don’t know what a win is. Set some goals that will stretch your team, but they’re attainable. Be sure to come back to them down the road to celebrate when you’ve reached them. Few things will boost team morale more than when they accomplish something important together.
Make plans now to appreciate your volunteers in a special way. Do something for all volunteers that shows them you are grateful for them. Whatever you do, make sure it feels personal. What you say may mean a lot more than what you actually do. If you’re looking for ideas, I recently put together a list of 100 Ways to Appreciate Volunteers after learning from what others have done.
Begin the habit now of writing notes to volunteers each week. Maybe you’ll write one or maybe you’ll write five. Whatever it is, make a plan and stick to it. Write a handwritten note to volunteers and encourage them by talking about specific things you see in them. Everybody appreciates a handwritten note and you’ll boost the morale of volunteers each week through this simple strategy.
Have Fun Together
Team morale is helped when people actually feel like a team. It’s important to help build relationships among the people on our team and few things do that better than having fun together. Plan some events or activities the group can be involved in to enjoy one another’s company. It may even be an opportunity for people to get to know other volunteers they rarely get to connect with when they’re serving. The more they care about each other the more they’ll care about what they do.
Many of these ideas can be done for your entire volunteer team in a wholesale approach, impacting everyone with one big effort. However, the real progress of boosting volunteer morale will be made slowly. It will be the result of investing in volunteers individually.
Over time, that investment will change the culture of your volunteer team and what was once a negative will now be a positive. Once that happens, the hardest work will be done but the work never stops. A great culture must be maintained or it will naturally drift back to a place where we have to talk about it again. None of us want that.