What’s the role of the professional staff in pushing the volunteer leaders to be more proactive in their roles?

A. Someone has to be the motivator. Volunteers may have a wealth of good intentions, but life gets in the way. Almost all volunteers will need a gentle nudge to complete a project from time to time. Some may be better at self-motivation, and others need a phone call or email. But, who should make that contact?

Professional staff may be able to provide motivation, but for lay leadership to be truly helpful to an organization, they have find ways to be a self-motivating unit. One way is, within a board or committee, when the chair is able and willing to ensure that others are following through on their commitments—doing what they say they are going to do. To ask staff to take on this additional role—that of nudge, prod coach, etc., adds work to their already heavy load and may add unnecessary stress to the relationship.

That being said, staff should be involved with volunteers – and more than just a quick conversation during a general meeting. Staff members provide support, check-ins, or even a bit of coddling from time to time. Don’t forget, volunteers are donors–giving monetary support—in addition to their time and energy. And both types of support are invaluable to organizations.

The moral? Keep volunteers happy and you will deepen their relationship with the organization. And that should always be a top priority for staff.