4 Tips for Motivating Your Volunteers

Posted by Kent Wallace on 2/6/17 9:33 AM

I get it, you are staring at a bunch of blank faces around the room as you survey this team of volunteers that you have begged, borrowed and stolen from every area of their  lives to assist you with this amazing cause that you believe so much in.  But now what?  How do we get this divided group of bodies to perform as a singularly focused, high functioning team?

Here are 4 tips to creating a highly motivated singularly focused volunteer machine;

Have a clear written job description for each volunteer and the role they are to play.

    Make sure you include:

  1. Estimated hours per week expected to serve to be successful
  2. The number of meetings per month to attend
  3. To whom they will be reporting
  4. A clear definition/description of their job or task
  5. A place for them to sign

I know having a place for them to sign sounds crazy, but I want a clear commitment from my volunteers that they will be making their best effort to accomplish their job.  Not only do they know what they are volunteering to do, but they need to be willing to put their name on the line in the form of a written commitment.


Have a regular accountability call or meeting

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. once said, “It is not what is expected that gets done but what is inspected.”  By checking on your people and their tasks they are attempting to fulfill you honor them and respect them and communicate that their work matters, that it is important and that it needs to be done in a timely matter.  By allowing deadlines to slip you are communicating that their work is insignificant or un-important to the needs of the organization.


Get to know your volunteers and what motivates each of them independently

Public recognition is not a motivator for every personality, nor are plaques, or gift certificates.  Some of your best volunteers may be the most motivated by spending a lunch hour with your executive director or you.  Take the time to determine to what motivates each of your volunteers and they will be much more effective.


Reward generously

Once you know what motivates your volunteers, then lavish your thanks and praise on them abundantly.  Hand written thank you notes from you and the executive director.  Yes, plaques and ribbons if it makes sense for a specific volunteer.  Yes, public recognition if it connects with the volunteer’s personality.  Be creative, be innovative and remember, the average person does not “feel” truly appreciated and honored until they have been thanked three to five times for a significant sacrifice or gift.


Several years ago, I had received 4 tickets to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA.  These are a very difficult ticket to get and I had been on the list for years hoping to get the opportunity to attend.  I called a good friend of mine and asked him if he would like to join me on the trip.  He was ecstatic, and we had an absolutely marvelous time.  The following month, I received a pair of framed picture collages done commemorating our trip and one of the most gracious thank you notes I have ever read. The collages still hang in my office today. 

Since then, every year, in April when the tournament is about to tee off, I will receive either a text, email or call thanking me again for taking him to the tournament.  I feel totally appreciated.  And, if ever the opportunity arises again to take someone on a golf trip, he will be the first I ask.  You cannot over-thank your volunteers – it will make sure they’re doing the best they possibly can and will ensure they are the first in line to volunteer for your next event.


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Topics: events, volunteers, development