Proper care and feeding of a volunteer organization
Mission and Vision
A major mile stone is setting a clear mission and vision for the group. Every meeting needs to have set achievable expectations lest the meeting topics will wander. Every role in the organization needs to have set achievable objectives and each role needs to reinforce the other so all are held to the organization's standards.
Means of accomplishing this:
- Develop a mission statement which distills who your organization is and how you do things and distill it down to a sentence or at most a paragraph.
- Paste the Mission Statement on everything, say it verbally during every meeting.
- Set a vision statement of where we need to be in X many years (our 3 year mission, to boldly go ...)
Setting realistic rules
- Rules need to be simple, achievable and realistic
- Rules need to be documented
- Rules that are documented need to be enforceable
Keeping things on track
- Follow Roberts Rules of Order or a derivative rule set for every meeting
- If you have people who need to have social time then schedule a round table "celebrations" to get the major social events and gossip out of the way
- Rules need to be "alive" in that should they fail to take care of a situation they need to be flexible enough to allow common sense to prevail
- Hold regular meetings with all persons in the organization
- Hold weekly work group, committee or subcommittee meetings if something has to get done
- When setting policies, rules or standards, Keep it open, direct and simple.
- When dealing with volunteers understand that volunteers have a 3 year shelf life and volunteer burn out is real.
Keeping volunteer engauged and combating burnout:
- Branding - Develop branding, prepare "gimmies",awards ,t shirts, patches and other handouts.
- Recognize volunteer achievements
- Keep the discipline up, a meeting is like a ritual, if someone suddenly loses interest, or stops participating this tells you they are becoming burned out
- Schedule volunteer vacations so they can rest between big projects
- Set time commitment limits so people don't overwork themselves
- If your group cohabitates with another organization make sure that you clearly identify your group during every meeting so people don't become confused and leave your organization