How to Lead and Motivate Volunteers

For many years I was the CEO of a large not-for-profit organisation in a community just west of Sydney, Australia. Without hesitation I would say the key to the effectiveness of this organisation was the enormous contribution of hundreds of volunteers, many of whom were contributing between 10 and 20 hours of very effective and focused skilled labour every week. On top of their valuable work these same people were often among our best financial supporters contributing thousands of dollars each year into our budget bottom line.

I learned so much about working with volunteers as I led this organisation from startup through various stages to become a significant community organisation working with all aspects of society but especially providing young people with hope, emergency care, social connection, leadership training and opportunities to serve both locally and internationally.

Things I know about volunteers:

Volunteers want their lives to make a difference.
Volunteers are generous people who are learning to be more generous.
Volunteers will give amazing commitment if they know that what they do is making a difference.
The main payoff for volunteers is relationship. They respond to being valued as a person as well as for the work they do being valued. They love to be part of a fun team achieving great results! Reward great effort with fun relationship times.
The volunteer spirit is an awesome foundation for building a healthy effective organisation.

[NB. Surveys in workplaces have shown that employees will leave a highly paid job where there are poor relationships for a lesser paying job if they are confident they will have better relationships].

Keys to leading motivated volunteers:

Be willing to spend time with them to get to know them, value them and connect with them. It will be time well invested.
Take time to know and tap their passion. Passion to help people, for a cause, to be part of a successful team, to grow and learn.
Set the bar high. Never lower it just because they are volunteers or you insult them and actually give them the sense that what they are doing is not very important, where it doesn't matter if they turn up or not.
Demand commitment of volunteers. Treat them as equal members of the team to staff members. I.e. give them job descriptions, signed contracts, clear expectations, an orientation/induction, consequences of non performance.
Call volunteers to account if they do not fulfill their commitments. It is an opportunity to assist them to grow. They will either leave or appreciate it, learn and grow.
Encourage them to grow. If a volunteer knows that working with you is going to assist them to grow as a person, then they will become highly motivated.

I am saddened when I hear leaders of organisations complain about their volunteers, how they wish they had more money to pay people so they can get good staff. I venture to say leaders with this attitude would have similar problems motivating paid staff.

Motivation does not come with salary. Motivation comes from being inspired to be part of making a difference. Apparently Steve Jobs was lured back to Apple from his role as CEO of Pepsi Co by the challenge, "Are you going stay and make sugar water or do you want to come and change the world?"

If you are a leader or manager of a Not-for-Profit organistion try to create an team atomosphere where real relationships are possible as you work hard together to achieve awesome results that make a difference.

Why Organizations Need To Brand

Although most of the most successful corporations have realized how important branding is to their success, very few non profit organizations have addressed their need to brand, and how doing so would be quite beneficial. Having consulted to hundreds of organizations in the last more than thirty years, I have come to realize that the organizations that remain strongest are those who both address the needs of their members and supporters, as well as effectively communicating their message, and keeping it out there in front of their niche audience. Anyone who doubts the importance of branding should simply observe how major companies, such as Nike, Target, and many others, have used their brand to maintain and strengthen their identity and marketing.

1. Branding is the creation and development of your organization's identity and establishment of recognition, as well as continuously reminding supporters of your relevance. Some items that come into play regarding branding include: a logo (but one that tells a story or message); images (including pictures, videos, websites, etc.); slogans (catchy and easy to remember, clever, relevant, and compelling); ideas and other information connected to why your group is worthy of someone's support. We often hear and witness organizations refer to branding as a philosophical concept or some sort of rhetorical exercise, but true branding requires a fully thought- out action plan that relates to the organizations strategic plan and mission.

2. Branding should accomplish many important tasks for an organization that wishes to garner the support of others. An organization's brand should differentiate it from others and point out its unique features and values. How an organization brands itself has a major impact on its ability to attract others. This concept should also both create excitement and be easy to remember. One of the most essential aspects for successful branding is to always relate the branding efforts to the organization's mission.

3. It is not enough to simply do part of this. For example, a great logo has limited impact if it is not an essential part of a comprehensive marketing plan. All branding efforts must aim to motivate others to both action, as well as make them more receptive to placing a higher value on belonging to, and supporting the specific group and its mission. Leaders must remember that in today's world, there is much competition for attention and donor support, and the branding effort must be used effectively to keep the group's visibility in the foreground, and thus provide itself a competitive advantage.

Branding must be part of an organization's overall strategic planning efforts. Leaders must realize that even the greatest organizations with the most important and relevant missions, will soon lose support if it does not address the concept of perceived value, and branding is an essential component of that effort.