Nonprofit Volunteers – From the Over-Committed to the Creative

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about assessing your volunteers’ satisfaction and offered a download of the four forms that should cover most of your volunteers. (Click here if you missed Reading A Volunteer’s Mind Or Nonprofit Volunteer Evaluation Forms). It got me thinking about my current volunteering. What I like about it, what I wish were different. I recently co-chaired an event that required more than 40 volunteers. Now, I am chairing a sub-committee for a large spring event. I have had to consider what type of volunteer works well and in which environment.

Types of Volunteers
There are a lot of different ways to categorize volunteers. This list is not exhaustive , it is intended to help you consider where your volunteers’ strengths and weaknesses lie. There is in each of us a combination of these types, but who works well with whom and who complements whom among their fellow volunteers should be a factor in developing long-term and short-term committees.

The “Over-Committed” (AKA The Person Who Thinks They Have More Time Then They Do):
This person understands the need for volunteers (often they run a few events themselves) and always says yes to helping out. But, spreading themselves so thin means that someone else has to pick up the slack when things don’t go exactly as planned, they do not do what they said they would do andparticualrly, when there is no room for error. There are always times when volunteer commitments drop lower in priority than they should, but there are only so many apologies before the work needs to get done.

The “Busy, Busy, Busy”:
Whether or not they are running the event, they have to be put at the busiest positions to keep them interested. They are often committed to multiple nonprofits and events so secure your place on their “priority organizations” before someone else swoops them up.

The “Likes Name Recognition”:
Similar to donors who need to see their names on buildings, rooms, benches and the like, these volunteers want everyone to see that they are in charge. And in the same way you treat donors, if that is what makes them happy, a few listings seem like an easy way to make a volunteer more committed.

The “Organizer”:
At some point each event needs an organizer –ideally paired with a “Creative” (see below). This person ensures the systems, checklists, spreadsheets, and job descriptions are in place. Likes to be ahead of schedule and can be discouraged from participating by lack of support or others willingness to hit target dates.

The “Creative”:
Similar to the “Organizer”, in that each event needs some creativity at the top but best paired with someone who will keep the creativity focused and on schedule. Too many “Creatives” working together can cause a lack of productivity or at least a less time-constrained schedule.

Knowing more about your volunteers, what type they are—and, who would work well with whom—will enable you to utilize them more effectively both for their good as well as the benefit of your organization.