Community Matters with Libby Jones June 2016

Libby Jones

The week of 19 to 25 June is National Volunteer week. The theme this year is “Make time and Thanks for making time.” It is both a call to action and an appreciation of those who make such a significant voluntary contribution to our communities.

In our busy lives, time is what many people feel they lack most. Trying to make time to fit in anything else can seem like an impossible task. In fact, lack of time is the most commonly cited reason why people don’t volunteer, even though they say they would like to be able to help. Of course sometimes this can be a handy excuse to avoid getting involved, in other cases, if it is not made clear to potential volunteers how much time is expected, what they will be required to do, and importantly how they exit an organisation, they may hold back from coming on board.

Community groups often rely on the goodwill of volunteers, without considering the value they bring to the organisation. Volunteers need to know their involvement is making a genuine difference and that their contribution is both recognised and appreciated.

Good volunteer management creates a win-win situation for the volunteers and the group. A bit of planning and the right person leading the team can make all the difference to volunteers’ motivation to become and stay involved.

Looking after volunteers

  • Effectively respond to enquiries and create a welcoming environment – including time requirements
  • Find out what motivates your volunteers so you can keep them interested, it may be different for each person
  • Match volunteers to the roles available in the organisation
  • Share the workload
  • Provide orientation and training where needed
  • Invest time and money into practices such as expense reimbursement and role expectations
  • Have a mentor or someone available for new volunteers to call with queries

Keeping volunteers

  • Understand there are many factors that contribute towards volunteers staying in an organisation, including personal e.g. motivation, life stage, and available time, as well as organisational e.g. length and usefulness of meetings, good leadership and communication
  • Ensure cost is not a barrier to volunteers’ involvement
  • Have an organisational culture that welcomes, values and respects volunteers
  • Ensure you communicate with volunteers and keep them up to date
  • Recognise, appreciate and thank your volunteers and supporters regularly and genuinely - take the time to ask them how they might like to be recognised and rewarded/thanked
  • Ensure that staff (if you have them) involve and support volunteers
  • Have fun
  • Have well run effective and time limited meetings

There are organisations available to support community groups if they need help in this area, such as Volunteering NZ and closer to home Volunteering Northland, as well as businesses who offer training and support such as Exult, and others help with specific purposes such as CreativeNZ and SportNZ.

If you haven’t acknowledged your volunteers recently, then Volunteer Week brings the perfect opportunity to recognise and thank them for the work they do in your group and community, and to check in with them about how it is going for them.