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12 Steps for Creating Great Volunteer Teams

Volunteering This is a guest article by Karl E. Burgher.

Great organizations have great teams. They may still struggle with challenges, but they face them together and work to find effective solutions. Every individual on your volunteer team is important. Each task someone completes contributes to your team’s overall success and your ability to provide service to others. If you do not have much experience working with teams, do not worry. As we discuss in our free ebook, Volunteering, each team member can be a manager and a leader. You can learn the skills you need to build a strong team that will lead you to the finish line. In a previous post, “Top 10 Ways to Become a Better Volunteer,” we focused on you as an individual. In this post, we take you to the team.

 

Make the choice to build a great volunteer team. Here are 12 steps to do it:

 

1.   Have a work plan. All team members need to know what they are supposed to do, as well as what everyone else is supposed to be doing. The team’s purpose should be clear. You must take responsibility for your team and protect it. Over-organize the start and celebrate the finish.

2.   Communicate effectively. This could involve phone calls, email, meetings, and documentation. You need to develop meeting skills and always over-prepare for team meetings. Encourage your teammates to communicate effectively and thoroughly with one another. The last time we checked, human beings cannot yet read minds.

3.   Establish clear team objectives and expectations and make sure your teammates know them. Write them down and make sure everyone has access to them. Divide large objectives into smaller, more manageable ones. Define the outcome well.

4.   Learn how to motivate yourself and others, but do not rely exclusively on motivation to complete your team’s tasks. Having a healthy organization and a strong team beats working alone.

5.   Make decisions and set priorities. Get input and feedback from your teammates.

6.   Assess your team’s skill set. Know your teammates and know yourself and then delegate appropriate tasks to those teammates best able to complete them. You should also acknowledge that these are volunteers, and that some of them will be seeking more guidance in their tasks than others. Pay attention to one another, volunteers. Pay attention to the needs of all, managers.

7.   Create a vision of success. Believe in your team and its objectives. Eliminate barriers. Feel the end point and see the win.

8.   Lead by example. Be positive, clear, and consistent. Coach your teammates.

9.   Move forward with constructive criticism, not backwards with insult and envy.

10.   Care about your team. Learn about your teammates—chat with them on a regular basis. Praise them. Listen and empathize. Deal with bad apples—turn them into cider ASAP! Resolve conflicts quickly, as they arise. Address any anxieties.

11.   Facilitate others’ successes. Praise them in public, and criticize (when necessary) in private. Share the credit of your successes and you will exceed your own objectives.

12.   Have fun together! Share meals, create a fantasy football league, do a ropes course. These are great ways of getting to know your teammates and build stronger relationships with them.

 

In short, spend some time planning and organizing up front, and assessing throughout your organization’s projects. Make sure that you communicate effectively with your fellow volunteers and maintain a positive environment. Think about the team. Lead by example and don’t forget to celebrate together!

Why Do We Want to Create These Great Teams?
 
We believe that creating a good team is primary and the actual volunteer work is secondary. Educating yourself and others about teamwork will result in multiple rewards, such as:

  • Higher success rates with your tasks,
  • Less stressful tasks,
  • More personal enjoyment from working with your team,
  • Greater retention,
  • A stronger sense of accomplishment, and
  • More funding opportunities for your organization.

We encourage you to try the strategies outlined in this blog. If you persevere, you will see results in no time! When volunteering becomes more about the volunteer, better work and service is the result and everyone is better off. Volunteering should be an enjoyable experience, as we discuss in our previous post, “5 Key Action Steps to Help You Enjoy Volunteering.” And remember, you can find more on these and other topics in Volunteering.

Volunteering