Keep them Around

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Non-profits, churches and schools all receive a significant boost in productivity through the work of volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of many organizations. Yet, volunteer turnover effects them all. This leaves organizations in an constant pursuit for new volunteers that need to be trained, coached, launched into positions, and overseen. The pressure to be in the constant hunt for new volunteers can be lessened when you increase your ability to retain the volunteers you already have. Before you can go and recruit more leaders you have to make sure leaders aren’t slipping out on you because of your volunteer culture. Fix the culture first so that volunteers can flourish in your organization. Through working as a volunteer, leading volunteers and helping problem solve with other organizations here are a few ways to retain the volunteers you have currently.

Value your Volunteers

Volunteer retention can be as simple as showing that you value them. You care about them as the individuals they are and not just for the tasks they do and how they advance your organizations agenda. Look volunteers in the eye and say you appreciate them and tell them how you see them engaging in the organizations mission. Volunteers often leave because they are overworked and under appreciated. Buy them coffee before they show up, send out thank you notes, and budget for volunteer retention ideas. Show that you care about your volunteers and they will stick around.

Clearly defined roles and expectations

Make sure your volunteers know their role and the expectations of them. Volunteers get frustrated when they signed up for one job and end up being overwhelmed with tasks they didn’t sign up for. Volunteer frustration often comes from unclear expectations and not knowing what a win looks like for them. They may not see how their effort helps in the long run. As an organization, take time, especially during the recruitment and training phases, to coach volunteers on expectations, defining their roles and what a win looks like for them. Your volunteers will knock it out of the park when they know what pitch to swing at.

Create ownership

Whenever you can generate a sense of ownership in your volunteer team your organizations culture begins to shift. Listen to your volunteers and their suggestions. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of your team. They see the problems in your systems and procedures that you may overlook. Ask for volunteer feedback and empower your volunteers to come up with solutions. When volunteers are asked for their thoughts and suggestions it helps them to feel part of the team. Creating a culture of safety, mutual respect and ownership goes a long way in retaining your volunteers.

Stay organized and ahead of the game

Get your stuff together! You cannot expect a team of volunteers to work well in the midst of chaos and dysfunction that you create. Take a moment to get yourself organized, create better systems and stop living in the moment. When you are going by the moment a lot of your time is putting out small fires that arise. When you have a great volunteer culture you have coached and empowered volunteers to put out the fires for you in a way that drives the mission of your organization. This allows you to stay ahead  of the game, think big picture, and be innovative.

A revolving door of volunteers prevents momentum in your organization. Look at the volunteers you have right now. How are you celebrating them? How are you allowing them to feel part of the team? How are you getting yourself organized to better lead others? If you are struggling with volunteer retention and recruitment it is time to evaluate and improve your team.

Parents are important too

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Navigating family dynamics can be difficult. As someone who works with the children of other people this is particularly true. You are in a kids life as a coach, pastor, teacher or mentor and trying to help them navigate life. Parents are also there to help navigate the lives of their kids. I have seen and experienced a few situations where this dynamic was tricky. When in the middle of conversations with either kids or parents there are a few key concepts that help me to navigate the conversations.

They aren’t your kids

This idea is crucial. The kids that you working with are not yours. You are not the primary spiritual leader, the primary influencer, for the kids, their parents are. This is difficult especially when you do not agree with parenting styles or situations. Just remember that your influence diminishes when you are not able to have access to because you’ve over stepped a boundary.

Point the kids back to their parents

There will be times when kids just talk trash on their parents. They will yell about them and get angry with them. There will be times when those same parents talk badly about you for whatever reason. You are able to demonstrate grace and peace when you can point kids to their parents and even support those parents that may have treated you unfairly.

Admit when you’re wrong

Sometimes we mess up. We let a kid get hurt (guilt of this one a few times), we don’t show up when we are supposed to or we give advice that is contradictory to what the parents want. Simply saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is a huge step in dealing with parents.

Dealing with kids also means dealing with those kids parents. Make sure you have open lines of communication and cue the parent up for even greater influence with their kids. Have dinner at their house and get to know the kids family. Go over expectations and follow their rules for their kids. It may be difficult but when all the stake holders in a kids life are united you will find greater success in influencing the lives of kids.a