lead volunteers

How to Lead Volunteers in Uncertainty: Your Important Work Ahead

When we experience massive change, particularly when it’s unwelcome or unexpected, it may feel like the best thing to do is crawl under a rock and wait for the storm to pass. But, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth; especially when it comes to how to lead volunteers during times of change.

During times of political upheaval, it is essential that nonprofits and public sector organizations reinforce their current network of support, seek to find new partners, and prepare to take the lead on advocating for their causes and communities.

Having experienced past upheavals, we know they can have significant impacts on our sector and those wonderful, diverse, and at times vulnerable communities we serve.

In the future, we may experience changes in our mandates, funding, and support. Your preparation will be the key to your survival and success.

There’s no time like the present to get started. Volunteers and community allies will be central to your efforts to maintain and even grow your efforts. Your ability to stay strategic, inspire others, and lead from your truth will be absolutely critical.

So, buck up, buttercup.

Know that you have the appreciation, love, and support of so many people including those of us here at VolunteerPro. Know that your work and the work of your volunteer colleagues will continue to be vital. Know that you have the skills, talent, and passion to continue the journey.

Know that, yes, you will rise.

How to Lead Volunteers Successfully in Times of Change

1) Focus on Your Mission, Not Politics — Many organizations have volunteers from different sides of the aisle. It’s important to remind them of your shared, common purpose. Ask them to re-dedicate themselves to moving forward.

2) Provide Simple Talking Points — Volunteers and supporters will no doubt inquire, and be asked, how future changes might affect your organization. While you may not have all of the answers now, provide what you can, and keep it positive, proactive, and laser-focused on furthering your mission.

3) Keep Volunteers in the Loop — Be upfront about challenges without being alarmist. Get volunteers involved now in contingency planning. Update your talking points as new information or strategy is developed.

4) Reinforce Your Team’s Norms of Behavior — No matter what happens out in the world, your team needs to be assured that they will be safe and protected from incivility in your workplace. Make sure everyone agrees that everyone is expected to respect differences of opinion, disagree without being disagreeable, and act in ways that best support each other and the mission.

5) Help Volunteers Discover Commonalities — People with wildly different political views still can find something in common — whether it be life experience or a favorite food — if they keep the dialog open. Certainly, your cause is a common bond for your supporters. It’s important that you continue to bring people together, not drive them apart. Discovering these things can break down walls.

6) Reach Out and Connect With Allies — Work with your volunteers to seek out other organizations, gatekeepers, communities, etc. that share a similar purpose. Look beyond the usual suspects. Begin conversations about how you can build a strong coalition locally, regionally, and nationally to advocate for your needs.

7) Practice Relentless Self-CareTake care of yourself and encourage others to do so in all the ways you can. The journey may take some time. You need to stick with it, persist, keep doing your important work. Your health and well-being will be what fuels your fire.

8) Finally, Keep the Faith — We are on a journey in a long arc of history. As a people, and as causes, we have survived many things. And, yet we keep on going, moving toward the sun and the light.

Remember: there is no greater purpose than to help our fellow beings grow and thrive.

Note:  This article on leading volunteers is a reprint from today’s VolunteerPro e-newsletter.  To subscribe to this weekly publication, go here.