How many do you need?

Do you remember the childhood story of Goldilocks and the three bears? A girl goes for a walk in the forest and enters an empty house both tired and hungry. Sounds a bit like me after Sunday services!

Goldilocks goes through a few scenarios to deal with her hunger and exhaustion, and each time she deals with a number of extremes before settling in. She tries 3 bowls of porridge – one too hot, another too cold, and the final one was just right. She heads upstairs to get some sleep and struggles to find the right bed. One mattress is way too hard, the next is way too soft and the final one is just right.

The story of Goldilocks might be a fairytale, but it speaks to me when I consider the needs of a volunteer leader and a volunteer team. There is a question we all face when serving on a volunteer team: How many is enough? How many volunteers do you need?

Identifying the right number of volunteers can be a difficult task. Much like Goldilocks trying to find the right mattress we must navigate the tension of the extremes to find what is right for us.   There are 3 options when it comes to the number of people needed on your team:

  • Have too few volunteers – This is like jumping into the bed made for Papa bear. When you try to be minimalistic in your recruiting, you make things hard on your volunteers. Having too few volunteers’ means people will be stretched thin and can begin to feel used.
  • Have too many volunteers – This is like jumping into the bed made for Mama bear. Recruiting too many people so that there is never a felt need, it makes the team too soft. Having too many volunteers’ will cause people to feel useless on the team.
  • Just the right number of volunteers – Goldilocks finally settled in when she found a spot that was well balanced, and the same can be true for us. There is a balance to strike where people feel like they are able to contribute to something meaningful but also have margin to grow.

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