How to Provide Crystal Clear Instructions when Leading Volunteers

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.