Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HOW TO: Recruit volunteers

How to recruit volunteers.
I remember as a young youth pastor I was starved for help within my ministry at the church.  So much so that I almost saw people as targets.  One time in particular a new couple came to visit the church and my wife and I were ecstatic.  This may of had something to do with the fact the church we were at was devoid of people our age and we also saw a potential fit for our youth group.  We took them out for lunch and I think we came on a little strong because they never came back.  I would like to think I have learned a few things since then.
Now many people have looked at our team here in Langley and asked me how to recruit volunteers.  Currently we have 3 full time paid staff, about a dozen volunteers involved at different levels and several teams of people that help out in other various roles and partnerships such as baking for our events and such.  Over the years I have supervised 7 staff members and dozens upon dozens of volunteers and interns.  Many of these people I still have a vibrant relationship with today if they are involved directly in what we are doing are not.  I don’t feel like I have done anything special in doing this, but I feel extremely blessed.  However here are a list of things I value in working with others and getting them involved.
1.      Listen to the passion of others:  Many times we are very narrowly focused on what we want from people instead of what people are passionate about themselves.  It is a process of trying to jamb square pegs in round holes.  If instead of trying to recruit volunteers and instead just try to befriend people we can help them develop their passions be it with our group or not.

2.      Know your own passion and focus:  This isn’t something that you should make up, but rather something that you should live and breath.  When you talk with people don’t try and recruit them to anything but rather, simply, just share what you are called to – they may just ask to join you.

3.      Network with others:  Get to know your competition.  Who else in your area of work is vying for help?  Get to know them and what they are looking for so that when you meet someone that fits you can pass them on to others.  You may just find they end up doing the same thing for you.

4.      Be willing to give people a shot:  When looking for people to assist us we often look for people that are similar to us because we think we have the corner market on being the “professional” but I have worked with people vastly different than myself and I am thankful for it.  For instance would you allow a volunteer youth worker that smokes?  If their heart is in the right place many vices can be overlooked.

5.      Be a place of practicum:  Taking in interns has been amazing in having other people around.  They needs practice for their schooling and you need volunteers.  It is a great match.  The problem is many times interns are not trusted with real work, but merely with tasks that we don’t want to do ourselves.  Give them a chance to mess around with the real meat of what you do and help them with the consequence.  Even if they fail.

6.      Be a leader, not a dictator:  I think leadership has more to do facilitating others in their passions than it is about getting people to follow us in ours.  I see my volunteers as my peers, not as “just” a volunteer.  I would trust them to operate things on their own outside of my direct supervision.  Good training and support goes a long way in helping people build their confidence.

7.      Encourage people:  look for opportunities to acknowledge that people are putting in the extra mile in being a part of your team.  Especially if someone is volunteering on top of full time work.  For you it is ALL you do for them it is all EXTRA.  When we get past them trying to meet our expectations and instead encouraging them that no matter how small a part they place they are exceeding our expectations help create longevity.

8.      Be flexible: people come and people go – encourage them in their lives not just in their roles within your work for them.  Help them develop themselves and that may even mean pushing them away from what you do. 

9.      Allow yourself to be challenged:  Give your team the right to speak into your own life in the same way that you speak into theirs.  The partnership and ownership that is provided in allowing other people a voice is valuable.  Plus you end up with friends, not “just volunteers”.

10.  Pray.  Most importantly if you want or need people to be alongside of you pray about it.  God is a God of community and he will grant that desire of your heart.  Don’t give up.

Well those are my ideas.  Did I miss anything?  What would you add?
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