Volunteering & lots of tea are a perfect combination!

Photo courtesy of 'Dyanna' on Flickr

People volunteer for lots of different reasons from wanting to gain experience to making new friends, but walking into any new situation can be scary. Putting on the kettle is a simple way to put new volunteers at ease.

As an arts management student I volunteered in loads of arts organisations from festivals to galleries and theaters. The places I stuck with where the ones that made me a cup of tea when I walked in the door. Its important that you get to know your volunteers, after all if you don’t have time to invest in them, they will quickly lose their desire to invest their precious time in you. Volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds you might have a retired teacher, or trainee doctor helping out at your festival but you’ll never know this if you simply ask volunteers for their contact details and a reference.

Just last week I got a lovely new ‘recruiting and managing volunteers’ OCN qualification in the post. The 2 day training course which I attended earlier in the year made me realise that managing volunteers requires more than simply policy, reference checking and progress reviews. The training course covered all the ‘official’ stuff but equally important is simply being nice, friendly, interested and approachable. From my experience the being nice part of managing volunteers is all to often over looked.

Volunteers don’t want to spend all day in a cupboard stuffing envelopes, but get a couple of volunteers together, put the radio on and provide some cupcakes and a mundane task suddenly becomes a sociable one.

I guess the recipe to creating a successful volunteer programme is simple: Think before you ask, would I do this for free? Would I enjoy doing this? What would I get out of this task if I was volunteering? These might seem like simple questions but in the heat of the moment, in the madness of a festival they are often over looked.

If you take the time to make volunteers feel welcome they will quickly become loyal advocates, if you don’t they will quickly tell their friends and family about their negative experience. Your volunteers are important, they are loyal and motivated members of the community, don’t underestimate their value!

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