Three Steps for Volunteer Engagement

When my wife and I had our daughter we knew about as much as every other first time parent – that is to say we were utterly clueless.  Once she was cleaned up I sat and held my new baby for nearly 30 minutes before a nurse came in and asked, “Do you have a diaper on that baby?”  She didn’t have a diaper on, and the look that nurse gave me convinced me I had missed an important step in the process.  Luckily our daughter was all of 30 minutes old, so she didn’t have much comprehension of me missing this important step.  (And lucky for me, she didn’t go to the bathroom in that time!)

With every new endeavor it helps to have clear steps to follow.  When it came to caring for my new daughter, I needed some clear steps to ensure she was well cared for as she acclimated to becoming part of our family.  Much like I needed a plan to care for my daughter during her early days, we similarly need a plan when it comes to caring for new volunteers during their early days on our teams.  Here is a simple 3 step plan that will help volunteers land well onto a team:

1. Give Them Someone To KNOW – The most important thing you can do to help someone land on your volunteer team is connect them to relationships. The first time someone shows up to serve make sure you give them people to know on the team.  They should have a chance to learn names and get comfortable with members of the team.  Good relational connects help create a solid foundation for a sense of belonging on the team.

2. Give Them Something To DO – Allow them to “get their hands dirty” as a part of your team. At first they might not be able to carry a lot of weight, but it is essential that they get opportunities so they can feel useful and so you can learn their strengths and weaknesses.  Giving them something to do might not remove weight from your shoulders at first – in fact it will probably add to it.  However if you don’t see where they have skills or flaws you cannot lead them to their full potential.

3. Give Them Something To OWN – A person has fully landed on your team when they have something they can own. It is at this point they are on the schedule and they have a specific post on the team.  When a volunteer has something to own, they have responsibility and an awareness that if they don’t show up then the team suffers.  When you help a volunteer to own something, you allow them to connect into ongoing meaningful service.

Every team is different, and the pacing of how you walk through these 3 steps can vary.  However embracing these 3 steps in order is the key to creating great volunteer engagement on your team.

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