Today's post is part of my blog series of sharing chapter four of my book, A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your Community. I hope you find reading the book over the next couple weeks to be enjoyable and beneficial to you as a leader.
This is part one of a two posts about how to lead volunteers. Enjoy!
Of all the sections in this book, “Leading Volunteers” is my favorite to write. When I first started leading A Day of Hope, I had zero leadership experience. But I had leadership potential. And now I love leadership, and I love to lead volunteers. I love sharing my vision with others, showing them how we are going to get there, and then working with them to make it all happen. Volunteers have such a passion for what they do. They are there on their own time passionately serving people. Even though it’s fun, leading volunteers can sometimes be difficult. So in this section I’ll give you some tips and principles to use.
When I hear people talk about leadership, I often hear them say that they don’t see themselves as a leader. People don’t see themselves as a leader because they have an inaccurate picture of what a leader is. They think being a leader is standing in front of lots of people, saying thoughts that are profound, and having people want to follow you. That’s not leadership. Leadership is serving people to help them do good work.
I almost left this section out of the chapter out of concern that some readers might disqualify themselves from doing A Day of Hope because they felt they have to be a “leader.” The truth is that you can probably become a leader for A Day of Hope. If I had to say there is one quality that you need it would be a pure heart. Even if you’re not super charismatic, you can lead. Even if you don’t work well with people, you can lead. Even if you don’t have a big vision and dream, you can lead. Even if you don’t have previous experience as a leader, you can lead. Even if you’ve never volunteered before, you can lead. The bottom line is that if you have a heart to sincerely help people for the right reasons, you’ll find a way to become the leader you need to be for A Day of Hope.
That being said, leadership does take some skill. But that skill can be developed. Below are eight leadership principles which you can follow to lead the volunteers for A Day of Hope. Because of the limited time we have together in this book, I don’t have eloquent stories or quotes by famous people to support each principle, but they are true leadership principles I practice. They come directly from my experience of leading A Day of Hope for five years. Here they are:
- Get out in Front – As the leader you’ve got to be out in front of people showing them the way. A leader always goes first. Have a vision for how many people you want to serve, start working towards it, and you’ll be out in front of people.
- Realize You Don’t Have Leverage – Leverage is your ability to force someone to do something because you said so. And with A Day of Hope, you have no leverage because everyone is a volunteer. No one has to volunteer with you and no one has to donate their money. If they volunteer or make a donation, it’s because they want to, not because you want them to.
- Give Ownership – When leading people who are working as a team, it’s ok to give them ownership. Once a woman wanted to do a car wash to raise funds for A Day of Hope. So I told her I would help her get some signs, car wash equipment, and recruit volunteers, but the ultimate responsibility was on her since she wanted to do the car wash. I gave her ownership of that car wash and she successfully led the car wash under her own leadership.
- Support Their Ideas – One of the many things I love about volunteers is they have lots of great ideas. So when they come up with one that you think is good and has potential to support your project, try to support that idea. Get behind it and help the volunteer to make it happen.
Question: How do you lead volunteers?