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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If you work for any type of church or nonprofit organization you know that recruiting volunteers to help with your ministry is difficult. People are busy, have limited time, and often already have commitments to other organizations besides yours. In this post I will show how you can recruit more volunteers by casting wide and deep in your volunteer recruitment efforts.

http://i2.wp.com/christopherscottblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/How-to-Cast-Wide-and-Deep-When-Recruiting-Volunteers.jpg?resize=640%2C480Photo Credit: Justin Norman

I. 2 Elements of Wide and Shallow Volunteer Recruitment

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

A. What You Ask For:

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Books I Read in 2014

December 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Here’s a quick list of some of the books I read in 2014. Books I highly recommend are linked to within my blog or on Amazon.

The Bible

Leadership Books

Charting a Bold Course: Training Leaders for 21st Century Ministry
Andrew Seidel

The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know
James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner

Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture
Eddie Gibbs

Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer
J. Oswald Sanders

Building Leaders: Blueprints for Developing Leadership at Every Level of Your Church
Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini

Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders
Reggie McNeal

Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture
Aubrey Malphurs

Books about the Bible

The Cambridge Introduction to Biblical Hebrew
Brian Webster

Basics of Biblical Greek (3rd edition)
William MounceReinventing Jesus: What The Da Vinci Code and Other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You
by J. Ed. Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace

Exploring the New Testament: A Gide to the Gospels & Acts
David Wenham and Steve Walton

An Introduction to the Old Testament: Historical Books
David M. Howard, Jr.

Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction
Elliott Johnson

Books about God & Theology

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God
D. A. Carson

The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation
Bruce Demarest

Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman’s Story
Mark Andrew Ritchie

Books about Volunteer Leadership & Management

The Volunteer Revolution: Unleading the Power of Everybody
Bill Hybells

Keep Those Volunteers Around: A Dozen Easy Tips to Excite, Inspire, & Retain Your Most Valuable Asset. . . Volunteers
Bill Wittich

The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer (2nd edition)
Jonathan and Thomas McKee

Christian Voluntarism: Theology & Praxis
William H. Brackney

The Volunteer Community: Creative Use of Human Resources (2nd edition)
Eva Schindler-Rainman and Ronald Lippitt

The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs
Marlene Wilson

Books about Teaching

Effective Bible Teaching
Jim Wilhoit and Leland Ryken

The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Teaching: A Comprehensive Resource on the Distincetiveness of True Christian Teaching
Edited by Kenneth Gangel and Howard Hendricks

Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive
Howard Hendricks

Creative Teaching Methods: Be an Effective Christian Teacher
Marlene LeFever

The Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typeographic Principles for the Visual Novice (3rd edition)
Robin Williams

Miscellaneous Books

Ministry Greenhouse: Cultivating Enviornments for Practical Learning
George Hillman, Jr.

The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World
Richard Stearns

Many Hands, Many Miracles: Building A Social Service Agency That Works
Father Dan Madigan and Ann Bancroft

The Return of the Prodigal Sun
Henri J.M. Nouwen

The Search for Significance
Robert McGee

Question: What books did you read in 2014 and what do you recommend others should read?

Vision seems to be a popular word for good reason. Vision is what excites people and attracts them to nonprofits, companies, and churches. In this post I show how you can use vision (or mission) to recruit volunteers for your nonprofit program.

How to Use Vision to Recruit Volunteers

Photo Credit: Senior Living

I. What is vision?

A. Definition

It is a picture of what your organization (or individual program) hopes to create in the near future. Continue Reading…

This summer I did some extensive research about how nonprofit organizations can best recruit, lead, and keep volunteers.

 Reasons Nonprofits Have Trouble Recruiting VolunteersPhoto Credit: Steve Depolo

My research led me to discover that there are six common reasons that nonprofits have trouble recruiting volunteers.

Too many willing-hearted volunteers have been wounded “on the job.” They’ve responded to an invitation to serve, only to end up in a volunteer position that was poorly conceived, resulting in tasks that few people would find fulfilling. Or they show up to serve and discover they have nothing to do; an underprepared volunteer coordinator has wasted their time, causing them to lose precious hours they had willingly carved out from their busy schedule. Some work hard on menial tasks without ever hearing how their efforts serve a grander cause; they’re given plenty of work, but no vision. Others have felt overwhelmed by unreasonable demands for which they’ve not received proper training; rather than being set up to win, they get put on the express lane to frustration and failure. Many have been hurt when a coercive leader drafted them to “fill a slot” without considering their gifts or talents or what they love to do. Some have given hours—maybe even years—in volunteer service to an organization or church, without receiving a single thanks.
Bill Hybels, The Volunteer Revolution, p. 25

1. Lack of training for staff working with volunteers

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While preparing an outline, workbook, and PowerPoint slides for a workshop this month for the Center for Nonprofit Management I have been reminded about the four things I know about effective teaching.

3 Things I Know About Effective Teaching

Photo Credit: Learning Executive

1. A teacher’s methods of teaching are only as good as his preparation.

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