Thursday, 26 March 2015

Acknowledge Contribution and Success

What is the point of working for no pay? We all do it for various reasons, in our congregations or in other areas of life. A frequent complaint from those trying to keep their congregations going is that they struggle to recruit volunteers. We need to ask ourselves if we actually acknowledge volunteer contributions and appreciate them enough when they do finally put up their hands.

It's important to remember that some people will have very different motivations for volunteering to you, and so you have to think of different ways to appeal to them.

During a Sunday worship service at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, the separate Children's Programme lights the chalice for their session with the following words:

'We are the chapel of the open minds, the loving hearts and the helping hands.'

One way of looking at people's motivations to volunteer is to think in terms of head people, heart people and hands people. Roughly speaking, head people like to plan and organise; heart people care deeply about the people they work with; and hands people see a job needs to be done and they get stuck in. Which are you?

Now think about how you might appeal to someone in a different category. Although head people care, they will want to know exactly what's expected of them, the time commitment and the goals. Hands people might be willing to help out with doing a reading in a service or a stint on the tea rota but not if they have to fill out a complicated spreadsheet first! Heart people will want to know how their work is going to help those in need.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone in another category and see what it takes to appeal to them. It might help to speak to friends and colleagues about their motivations for doing things; if they turn out to have a different viewpoint from you, they will be able to teach you a lot. What friendly advice would they give to someone trying to appeal to them as volunteers? Finally, here are some general tips* on encouraging members of your congregation to get more involved:

Don't ... just try to fill a vacant position.
             make assumptions about the person and their interests.
Do ...    connect the role or task to the mission of the congregation.
             show why this way of serving their community is a good fit for them.
            explain how it will benefit them.
            give an accurate role description showing expectations and time commitment.
            offer support, give feedback and ask for it!

When we get things right, it makes sense to celebrate our successes. How you acknowledge someone's contribution also depends on his or her personality. Some people will appreciate a special ritual in a community worship service whereas others would prefer a simple thank you card. People may volunteer for many different reasons but unless we acknowledge their contribution and celebrate group successes, we risk putting them off next time. Working together on common goals can build thriving Unitarian communities, so let's get going!
Kate Dean

*From the Central East Regional Group, UUA 'Recruiting volunteers Do's and Don'ts' Video - search
Thanks to the participants of the Hands Up! Why Volunteer? workshop at FUSE 2015 for their contributions,

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