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Ask an astro-physicist “what do you do all day,” and I’ll bet her answer isn’t “I look through a telescope.” Ask a software developer the same question and it’s doubtful he’d say, “I type on a keyboard.” So why do we, #LoVols say, “I work with volunteers?”

Astro-physicists and software developers have complicated jobs producing impressive results that stretch far beyond the simplest terms. Our jobs as #LoVols?…..most people don’t have a clue as to the skills and strategies we use when engaging volunteers and crafting volunteer impact. We need to change that perception.

This doesn’t mean whining, “volunteer Jenny did that amazing work because I spent extra days training her since our staff couldn’t take the time to show her how to do her work and oh, I listened to all her last-minute questions on a Saturday night when I could have gone to see Star Wars at the movies with my now ex-boyfriend who incidentally went without me and showed up with my best friend Carla and yeah, my life is in tatters, but hey, Jenny did a great job, thanks to my sacrifice, didn’t she?” Hmmmm, maybe that’s not quite the way to show our work.

Instead, we can show our strategies in developing effective volunteer teams and by doing so, dispel the myth that volunteers need nothing more than coordination. By laying out the upfront and continual work in developing effective volunteer teams, we accomplish these objectives:

  • we ingrain the idea that volunteers don’t magically appear, ready to go.
  • we show that volunteers are people, not tools, and like employees, need continual mentoring and support.
  • we reinforce the truism that volunteer initiatives are not “herding cats” but are strategically structured for success.
  • we support our argument that not every volunteer can be interchanged and that thoughtfully matching volunteers to role creates successful outcomes and prevents disasters.
  • we show that there are processes in play and that even our chatting with volunteers is structured to mentor them for success.
  • we point to a volunteer’s progression from first contact to integrated volunteer and reinforce the idea that volunteers require continual support, not just from us, but from the entire organization.
  • we highlight the creative processes in forming innovative volunteer roles that impact the mission.

The acronym, VOL E TEAMS will do nicely here as in, “Let me show you how I develop teams of volunteers who are effective.” You can substitute excellent or efficient for the “E” but I’ll argue why effective is the best choice when talking about VOL E TEAMS. Let’s look at definitions:

  • Effective: producing the intended result
  • Efficient: functioning in the best manner without wasting time
  • Excellent: possessing superior merit

Say a physician recommends her patient take a medication to alleviate symptoms. The physician could say, “this medication is excellent,” or “this medication is efficient,” or “this medication is effective.” Which word speaks to results? Effective. That doesn’t mean our volunteers are not excellent nor efficient. They are and you could also say, “I’m developing volunteers for an effective, efficient and excellent team.”

As we, LoVols report volunteer impact, effective is a key word to support the contributions our volunteers make. Verbiage is crucial and we must use results-type words to describe volunteer value such as effective, outcomes, results, impact, accomplish, contribute to, produce, achieve, implement, enact, create, effect, etc.

So, what does the acronym VOL E TEAMS stand for? (Hint- it stands for the work #LoVols do to create and sustain the volunteer factor.)

  • vetting
  • on-boarding and/or orienting
  • looping
  • efficiently and effectively communicating
  • training to position
  • educating
  • adjusting or agile thinking
  • mediating
  • structuring

Next time: An effective team requires an effective leader. Looking at the components of VOL E TEAMS or it’s time we show our value as Leaders of Volunteers.