Leading People with Limited Time

August 8, 2008

One of the challenges of leading volunteers that many nonprofit leaders face (myself included) is that volunteers have limited time. Below I’ve listed four rules that I believe many volunteers have for the time that they dedicate to organizations and projects.

  1. I truly want to volunteer – A lot of people say that want to volunteer and know it’s a great thing to do, but very few people make an effort to schedule time on their calendar to make it happen.
  2. I need to respect and admire the staff that I’m volunteering with – Nothing is more miserable for a volunteer than if they have to spend time with staff who hate their job, and staff who mismanage volunteers. The every day person can experience this misery at their normal 8 to 5 stressful job, why would they want to experience it at a place where they are donating their time?
  3. I need to value your mission and project more than my time – Volunteers need to believe that your mission and projects are more important than the other “stuff” they might be doing instead of volunteering for you. Is feeding the homeless more important to a volunteer on a Thursday afternoon than watching re-runs of Friends?
  4. I want my time to be used and needed – Volunteers hate to show up to volunteer and sit around. Why would they waste their time to volunteer if they are not even needed. Many organizations are guilty of breaking this rule because they say, “We always need more volunteers” or “You can never have enough volunteers.”

I’m not sure if you are a volunteer, business person, nonprofit leader, or stay-at-home Mom (which is an awesome job) but I hope you can use these volunteer rules in the future.

If you think there is a fifth rule that I have missed, feel free to leave it in the comments section.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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