So, why do people volunteer?
There are many benefits to volunteering, keeping body and mind active, opportunity to meet and make new friends, give something back to the community or to a cause they feel strongly about, keep up to date with all the latest news and views in your area, feel part of a team, to gain confidence and learn new skills. It’s important to find out why they are volunteering and so you can try to ensure that they get value out of contributing their time and energy.
There are several myths regarding working with volunteers:
- Volunteers are free
- Anyone can manage volunteers
- You don’t need much time to manage volunteers
- You don’t need staff to manage volunteers (aka volunteers manage themselves, volunteers will just show up)
- Volunteer management is a luxury we can’t afford
The inverse is actually true, because volunteers don’t need to be there they have to want to, they need support and each needs to be treated as an individual with different strengths and weaknesses and skill levels.
Many volunteers have lots of other commitments. In the community shop I ran it was particularly grandchildren and gardening and so they have to want to volunteer and feel valued if they are to work at unpopular times such as Saturday afternoons, when the weather is bad or holiday periods. You must never lose site of the fact that they are working often very hard with no tangible benefits and the relationship is a careful balance to ensure that both sides benefit.