The above image is of two Navy Seals. Navy Seals are elite American Special Operators who are not only volunteers, but who are recruited widely, selected from the many, and then equipped with the best. Leading volunteers isn’t only about recruiting the right individuals, leading volunteers is also about those equipping volunteers to succeed. There are a variety of ways to equip volunteers. Volumes could be written on the subject. However, I’m going to share with you 5 Steps to Equipping Volunteers. These steps are not in order of importance, they’re all important and all must be done in order to equip your volunteers well.
1. Vision is essential in Equipping Volunteers
Having a Vision is your responsibility as a leader. It’s essential to equipping your volunteers. Vision should be compelling, recurring, and relevant. Compelling because it’s what will bring volunteers to your team. People may respond to an urgent need in the short term, but a compelling vision is one of the reasons that volunteers will stay on your team for the long-term. It needs to be recurring because vision fades! Your teams should know the vision/mission statement and purpose so well they’re sick of hearing it. Finally, it needs to be relevant because an irrelevant vision will simply distract from your mission. Oddly, there are more organizations with leaders that have irrelevant than you would think! Want to learn more about vision? Read this blog on casting vision to your volunteers from the leading Children’s Ministry Equipping Ministry on Earth!
2. Proper Onboarding
No one wants to be in a position where they feel uncertain, uncomfortable, or unprepared. Onboard your volunteers like you would an employee, or even better than that. After all, your employees are being paid to be there. Often, your volunteers are paying to be there. That means you give them the tools necessary to succeed. If they need an iPad, an email, a cell phone, you give it to them. The higher level volunteer they are, the more they’ll probably need. Elite volunteers need sophisticated tools. Too often we expect our best people to do without only because they’re great. It should be the opposite! We should equip our best people with the best, and whatever you do, don’t set a precedent for terrible meetings!
3. Training, Training, and More Training
What’s the difference between training and equipping? Training is learning something and then practicing something over and over until you know it well. Equipping is giving someone the tools they need to succeed, which includes training. Equipping volunteers means teaching them simple things like where to find resources, how to use those resources, and what to do if something goes wrong. It means making sure they understand the most important policies and procedures and are well practiced in those policies and procedures.
4. Tight Network
We all serve on teams and that means, whether we like it or not, we’re in community. Equipping volunteers well means that there should be a tight network within the team. Not only that but there’s a camaraderie among volunteer leaders. Leadership always happens best in the context of relationship. So help the new volunteer step into a community and begin relationships with other team members right away. On the flip side, help leader volunteers connect to other leader volunteers. They can best share each others’ struggles, failures, and victories.
5. Effective Communication
Equipping volunteers means keeping them informed and letting them know what’s going on. I was originally going to call this point, “Constant Communication”, but Effective Communication is better. Constant isn’t always effective. After all, who wants to be emailed numerous times a week about intricate project details? Not any of us. Think about what makes communication to your volunteers effective. Outline best practices in order to develop a framework on how and when to communicate, and stick to it. Personal, regular, strategic communication is essential. Ensuring that volunteers get the message is my responsibility more than theirs, after all, it’s my message.