Tips For Non-Profit Volunteers

Donation Community Service Volunteer Support

A nonprofit is a business and therefore the s-a-m-e rules of any viable business need to be followed (step by step).

Plan or fail. There needs to be a Mission Statement that is read often, ditto for a Vision Statement. More importantly, corporate goals put into writing and addressing 3-5 year goals and backward (1 year, 6 months, quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily). These goals need to be read often, tracked with real numbers, facts, and figures that have internal reporting to measure success.

Publish your rules, standards, guidebook, and answer every communication like the CEO of any profitable business. Take a stand and keep it. Don not “change the rules” to suit someone’s personality and no success won’t “just happen” the work has to be done just like any other business.

Volunteers are the employees of nonprofits. Every volunteer should work as hard, with as much quality and as professionally as they would in any other employment position. Therefore, they need to be located, interviewed, evaluated, considered by the rest of the team for the right “fit” and have a written contract that they sign before working for the non-profit. Give them a copy since that is their job description. Volunteers require training, nurturing, counseling, clear assignments in writing, and clear expectations with a job description in writing. All safety rules apply and they should be supplied any tools that are required with the clear understanding that tools are to be used, not taken home. They need frequent evaluations (also in writing).

Praise and other “gold stars” are the paychecks of the volunteer and therefore needs to be distributed on a regular basis like a paycheck. Put, in writing, who did what, when, to create the non-profit’s success stories. Failures need to also be evaluated by the “team” or Board of Directors and appropriate changes put into place.

The boss MUST stand behind the volunteer when any doubt crops up with other volunteers or people from the outside because there is no business where personal power carries more weight (read “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Pack). Every volunteer has the potential to become an egocentric, self-serving, “Holier than thou” bully. That happens a great deal in the non-profit arena because many volunteers imagine that they cannot be excused from their positions.

If volunteers do not perform within the standards of the organization, fire them! If they misrepresent the organization, fire them! If they later learn that they are the ones who were wrong, they make restitution and ask to return, “hire” them back but keep a close eye on them. They may become the best workers you ever had or follow old patterns to “get even” for your public display of mistrust of them.

A reference letter from a nonprofit should be every bit as powerful, through and professional as any other reference letter.

We are all human, but the hours, effort and work of those in a nonprofit can require super-human efforts during a crisis (like Katrina), learn from that stress and put time aside to relax as a team, it’s just like any other business does.

At the end of the day recognize that no matter how much you gave to others (time, money, etc.) they gave you more than you ever gave to them. When you no longer feel that way it is time to go into another field because you are working to inflate your ego instead of working to improve the human condition.