A positive and productive culture within an organization is a must if the organization is going to be successful. Most people have been part of organizations where people are focused on keeping the status-quo, watching their backs, attempting to move up the hierarchic ladder, etc.

I believe that culture within nonprofit organizations is especially important because of the focus on serving others. If the culture is not built around good teamwork and helping other people within the organization, then there will not be success in serving clients and the needs of the community.How to Keep Your Best Volunteers by Creating a Great Culture

If you regularly lead volunteers and want to ensure that your best volunteers continue volunteering for you, then read and follow the steps I have listed below. These steps show you how to cultivate a positive culture and experience for the volunteers at your organization.

How do we attract and retain the best and the brightest [volunteers] when the culture is one of dispute, contentiousness, and rarely of the sacred nature of the work in which they are engaged?
Jeff Solomon and Richard Wexler, “Standards for Volunteer Leadership,” p. 9

One of the primary reasons for either the slow decay or quick demise of many volunteer programs is a lack for staff acceptance and support. Volunteers can only work effectively as part of a team. The other part of that team is paid staff. If volunteers are rejected as legitimate co-workers, both morale and performance suffers irreparably.
Marlene Wilson, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs, p. 152

But there’s something else that keeps me coming back week after week in my limited free time. It begins when I walk through the door, and everyone is visibly happy to see me. The warmth I feel when I walk into the room erases any trace of a stressful day. . . Volunteering has provided me with an opportunity to feel the way I did as a camp counselor years ago: like I’m making a difference. But the people I volunteer with are making a difference in my life, too, by welcoming, accepting and challenging me week after week. And once again I couldn’t be happier.
Max Martinelli, “Making Time to Make a Difference”


A. Definition for Volunteer Coordinators

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In almost ten years of experience leading volunteers I have noticed several reasons that volunteers quit volunteering for an organization. Some reasons seem obvious, some reasons do not. Sometimes volunteers do not want to quit but they have to because of personal obligations, sometimes volunteers want to quit but they don’t because they feel obligated to the organization they volunteer for.

10 Reasons Why Your Last Volunteer Might Have Quit

Photo Credit: Lightstock

In today’s post I share 9 reasons why volunteers often quit volunteering for nonprofit organization.


A. 58 percent of volunteers did not continue volunteering because of time restrictions from:

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When leading volunteers how do you know whether you should equip, delegate, or empower them? What is the difference between equipping, delegation, and empowerment?

How to Delegate, Empower, and Equip Volunteers

In today’s post I share why you should equip all volunteers, delegate to most volunteers, and empower only a few.

I. Equipping

A. Definition

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Every week when our volunteer Alan came into the office I would provide work for him to do. Normally I would bring the work to him at his desk when he arrived and provide clear instructions about what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, what to do if he had questions, etc. However, on this day I was particularly busy and simply set work on his desk for him to start doing when he arrived instead of my taking time to walk to his desk and instruct him about what needed to be done.

What I did not know is that a coworker spent an entire day carefully sorting the names and information of donor pledge forms into a special order so that the forms could be processed into the computer. So, when Alan arrived and saw a stack of 200 pieces of paper on his desk (donor pledge forms) he did what he was always instructed to do with paper placed on this desk: separate the the pieces of paper that had printing on one side from the pieces of paper that had printing on both sides.

I had walked over to Alan’s desk to check on him when I noticed that he was sorting out pledge forms and not doing the work I had placed on his desk. Alan had undone about a day’s worth of work that one of our staff had done. Ouch! All of this headache could have been avoided if I had taken time to walk over to Alan’s desk and provide him clear instructions as soon as he had arrived.

How to Always Provide Crystal Clear InstructionsIn today’s post I am going to provide you nine simple steps you can follow to provide crystal clear instructions when leading volunteers at your church or nonprofit organizations.

The shortcut path of just simply handing volunteer Dave an assignment is fraught with pitfalls. One or two “what am I supposed to be doing, exactly” and “who’s in charge here” and poof! Dave falls off the rope bridge into the piranha infested river of “I quit” below.
Meridian, “There Are No Shortcuts

Volunteer managers operate with clarity. We know we will not keep volunteers if messages and instructions are not clear, so we frame every instruction so that it is clear. We know that muddied messages can ruin a volunteer experience and cause the volunteer to quit.
Meridian, “Management 601

I. Know what, how, and when it needs to be done and who can (can’t) do the work.

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Effective leaders know how to connect well with people, listen, resolve conflict, and speak in a way that others can understand. Not everyone is able to do this.

In the context of nonprofit work and church ministry the skills I’ve listed above are even more important since most of the people being led are volunteers. Because of this, leaders need to be extremely good at motivating, guiding, and encouraging the people they lead within their nonprofit or church.

Those intangible skills of leadership can be categorized into what is called “Emotional Intelligence.” In today’s post I share what Emotional Intelligence is and how you can use it to be a better leader.

How to Use Emotional Intelligence When Leading Volunteers

Photo Credit: Tristan Martin

I. What is IQ?

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Leading volunteers is a unique deal. The leader has authority and influence over people without any real ability to enforce that authority or influence. Most volunteers arrive at a nonprofit organization in order to help, and if you are like me you have probably showed up a nonprofit organization and discovered that your passion for making a difference is not matched by the staff you interacted with. Like me, you probably felt discouraged and sensed a lack of passion from the nonprofit staff.

Why You Must Have Passion When Leading Volunteers

Photo Credit: Chris Lasher

In today’s post I show how nonprofit volunteer coordinators can show passion for what they do. And, more importantly, I am going to show how they can use their passion to lead others more effectively.

I. Sell yourself to the volunteers as a passionate leader for the work you do.

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To lead others well a leader must know what is expected of those being led. In businesses this is often done by the leader or HR department creating a “job description” used to attract qualified candidates to the hiring process. That job description helps the leader determine who would be the best fit for the job and it also provides clarity to the prospective job applicant about what would be expected of her. Businesses often do this process very well. However, when nonprofits attempt to recruit volunteers they often neglect this area.

Sadly, potential volunteers often hear the nonprofit cry “we need help” and show up at the organization to “help” only to discover that there is no clear direction about what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, when it needs to be completed, or who is in charge. As a result volunteers often bail out of the volunteer opportunity.

In today’s post I show you ten simple steps you can use to create simple and effective volunteer position descriptions.

10 Simple Steps to Design Effective Volunteer Positions

Photo Credit: Andrew Stawarz

It is important to consider job design before recruitment, for you must know why you need volunteers before you try to enlist help.
Marlene Wilson, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs, pp. 101-102

When you’re engaging a volunteer to support you with a complex project or task, it’s important to lay everything out on the table. Put the desired outcomes down in writing, along with a proposed timeline and designated check-in points. Each party should sign a letter of agreement or memorandum of understanding (MoU). Everyone should be on the same page from the start about what a successful completion will look like. Then, you can take a step back and let everyone do what they do best.
Shannon David, “How to Deepen Your Impact by Engaging Skilled Volunteers”

I. Connect your organization’s vision/mission with their passion.

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Charisma seems to be a magical leadership word in American culture. It’s that magical thing that some people supposedly have and others don’t. If you have it you are supposed to be endowed with magical leadership abilities, opportunities, and potential. If you don’t have it you are doomed to a life of mediocrity.

I realize I might have exaggerated in the above paragraph, but I think there is some truth to how charisma is commonly viewed within the topic of leadership. People seem to think that if you are going to be an effective leader you have to have charisma.

Why Charisma Is Optional and Character Is Essential

Photo Credit: Martin Fisch

In today’s post I am going to explain why charisma is absolutely not necessary for effective leadership. In fact, I will provide research and examples of how it can actually hurt a leader. Instead of charisma being a requirement for effective leadership, I would like to show you why character and competence are essential to effective leadership.

I. Level 5 Leadership

In 2001 Jim Collins published the book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. . . and Others Don’t (New York, Harper Collins, 2001), in which he wrote about “Level 5 Leaders.” These were the leaders of the companies that were the most productive, profitable, and continued their growth over long periods of time. Continue Reading…

Little affirms human dignity more than honest work. One of the surest ways to destroy self-worth is subsidizing the idleness of able-bodied people. Work is a gift, a calling, a human responsibility. And the creation of productive, meaningful employment fulfills one for the Creator’s highest designs. Because of that, it should be a central goal to our service.
Robert Lupton, Toxic Charity

One thing that changed drastically when I stopped leading A Day of Hope and turned over the reigns to the new team of leaders was that they changed “who” the volunteers were.

In my five years of leading A Day of Hope the primary volunteers I recruited were teenagers who had required community service hours, college students, and adults with kids. Those were the three groups I often sought out as potential volunteers to support our work in the community.

However, when Enclave Community Church began to lead A Day of Hope they enlisted the help of clients to serve as volunteers. This was a group of people which I never thought to or attempted to recruit as volunteers.

For several years Enclave had been running their weekly food program mostly through the work of volunteers, and most of those volunteers were clients in their program. The same people who were receiving a grocery bag of food every week were the same people who were going to the food bank to get the food, organizing it, preparing it to be given away, and then doing the cleanup work after the distribution of food.

Doing ministry with volunteers who are also the clients of the program looks different, but it can be done. In today’s post I show you how the clients of your nonprofit/church program can serve as volunteers.

Opportunities to volunteer must be expanded to all segments of the community—it is consistent with the concept of equal opportunity. Instead of being the privilege of the already privileged, volunteering must become the right of everyone: minorities, youth, seniors, the handicapped, blue-collar workers, business people, the disadvantaged. Remember—those who understand the culture and lifestyles of those you are trying to recruit make the best recruiters.
Marlene Wilson, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs, p. 118

How the Clients of Your Nonprofit Can Serve as Volunteers

A great example of having clients serve as volunteers is a community garden where people in need of food can plant and grow their own food while learning life lessons of responsibility, patience, etc.

 Photo Credit: US Department of Agriculture

I. Your clients can do a great job of serving as volunteers because they know about:

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Recruiting, screening, and interviewing volunteers is vital for the success of most nonprofit programs and church ministries. Sometimes when recruiting volunteers it might be necessary to interview volunteers in order to discern where the volunteer would be most helpful. In today’s post I give you some tips on how to interview potential volunteers.

How to Interview Volunteers

Photo Credit: Hashoo Foundation

I. Formal interviews and screenings are not always necessary for an effective program.

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