Do you find yourself caught up in the day-to-day minutia of “getting things done”? Are you constantly “head-down” trying to accomplish individual tasks? Once you lose sight of the overall mission, you become a manager, not a leader. And your organization needs people who can lead, and lead strategically!
Yes, the work needs to be done to further the mission. However, if your sole focus is on the tasks and not on the mission, your organization suffers.
Leading volunteers involves a lot more than just getting things done. As the person in charge of your organization’s volunteers, you are a leader. You have the opportunity to make a real impact on the organization. Never mind your job title, or your perceived level in the organization; as the leader of the volunteers, your work is vital.
Start by advocating.
Be an advocate for your volunteers. Articulate to staff and Board exactly how volunteers support the organization and further your mission. Demonstrate the real value of your volunteers. Fight for things that will benefit them, whether that’s a budget to hold appreciation events, or the opportunity to attend diversity training. What do your volunteers need to be the best they can be? Remember, the more you help them, the more they will help you and the more committed they will become.
Develop a vision for your volunteer program.
Know what a “perfect” volunteer program for your organization would look like, and determine the gap between that and where you are now. Certainly, no organization or program is perfect, but the closer you can get, the better. Look at the areas where you are farthest from the ideal, and start working to make them better. Over time, you’ll see a big difference in the effectiveness of the program, and that will take your mission farther.
You need a vision, too, for your volunteers.
Set a goal, leading toward the accomplishment of the mission. Make it achievable but challenging, and have them work toward it. Get them involved in the creation of the vision and in brainstorming ways to achieve it. The more they are involved right from the beginning, the more committed they will be toward accomplishing it. Once volunteers are fully committed to something, they will move mountains to achieve it!
Structure all your work around the organization’s strategy and mission. This helps you prioritize your tasks and make better choices about where you’re spending your (and your volunteers’) time. You might be surprised at the number of tasks that you do that aren’t actually important. Thinking strategically also helps you strike a good balance between operational and strategic priorities. Working in this way will demonstrate to your colleagues that you are a strategic thinker, and it will increase your influence. That, of course, will allow you to make an even bigger difference.
If you lead strategically, you will advance your mission faster, with less effort.
Set strategic priorities, advocate for your volunteers within the organization, and set a clear vision for the program and for your volunteers. By doing this consistently, you can supercharge your volunteer program and advance your mission much faster than you would if you just focused on each task as it comes up.
It may take a bit of a mind shift to lead strategically, but it’s worth it!