by Becky Lunders, teamWorks
I spend a lot of time at sports fields. I mean A LOT! Twelve hour days every Saturday and Sunday are not uncommon as we dash from field to field to support and cheer on our young athletes. Over the past several weekends, I’ve noticed how much one can learn about volunteers from sitting in the bleachers . You see, the coaches are volunteers. How they manage their team relates to the nonprofit sector and working with volunteers. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Be the face of the organization. The coaches are ambassadors for the league. Their sportsmanship (or lack of) will be associated with that which they represent for years to come. They represent the team, the league and in many cases the community printed on the front of their jersey. How they conduct themselves during adversity (read: really bad umpire calls!) leaves a mark on everyone watching. I have to say I am proud of the coaches for which my kids play. Likewise, your volunteer leaders are ambassadors for your organization. Make sure the people you put in leadership roles are up for the challenge. Their words and actions speak volumes. They can be your best recruiting tool in the community. Choose wisely.
Personal agendas not welcome. Like some volunteers, there are coaches who clearly have an agenda. It’s all about them as opposed to the team. We’ve all seen the coach who strives to put the spotlight on him versus the players. Remember this when working with volunteers. You will have some who have an agenda. Treat them respectfully, but be cautious about putting them in a leadership role.
Develop leaders to help you out. You are one. But you are only one. Coaches who are able to mobilize others have a greater impact. The baseball team manager who empowers his assistants maximizes his reach. Furthermore, the coach who is able to utilize the natural leaders on the team takes it a step further. The same is true with nonprofits. When working with volunteers, determine who in your organization has talent, initiative and natural leadership abilities and utilize them to help you manage your team of volunteers. You’ll build leaders in the process and they will feel good about their ability to contribute.
Recognition fuels enthusiasm. It’s amazing how recognition can turn a lackluster performance into one worthy of the ESPN Top Ten. The coveted game ball for outstanding performance gets everyone’s attention. Stickers. Silly stickers. One team gets stickers for great plays and MVP-type outings. The girls work hard for those stickers, and proudly wear them on the back of their helmets. They have trophy value! Recognition comes in many different forms. Just like sports teams, volunteer managers need to reward what they want to see more of. It doesn’t need to be spendy. It just needs to be sincere and timely. You’ll be amazed how recognition fuels enthusiasm which can translate into fundraising and program delivery for your organization.
Consider yourself the coach of your nonprofit’s team. Utilize your assistants and recruit leaders to help you get the job done. With the right people in the right roles you’ll have time to recognize their efforts, cheer on their accomplishments and create a strategic game plan for your program.