How can I grow anything with volunteers – part two

This is the second of two posts where we’re looking into the subject of “How to recruit and get the most out of volunteers.” This is a subject that people often bring up in coaching huddles so we asked Rich Robinson to give us some insight into how he’s recruited, related and worked with volunteers over the years. In the previous post Rich looked into some of our Core Values in working with volunteers. The Core Values he outlined were:

1.    View volunteers as Disciples not as Servants

2.    Volunteers are a Medium & Long-term Solution so take a Medium & Long-term view

3.    Invite volunteers into your life

 If you haven’t already read the first post we recommend reading it here before reading this one.

In this second post Rich will look at some of the Core Practices in working with volunteers which help to ensure that the Values expressed in the previous post are realised.

Core Practices


1)    Communicate Big Vision

A volunteer is making a sacrifice so make it worth their while! They need to know what your big picture vision is but if they’re merely fulfilling your vision they function more like a servant. It’s important to look at what the personal vision of a volunteer is alongside what your own personal vision is, and then look for the OVERLAP in what they want to achieve and what you want to achieve.

 2)   Communicate CLEAR expectations

Having clear expectations is crucial not only to get the most out of volunteers, but also to ensure they feel valued. If there’s no clear communication of what’s expected they’ll never know whether or not they’re fulfilling expectations, and this can quickly become demoralising.

It’s helpful to agree and set hours, days, responsibilities and role. Sometimes this can be agreed at the beginning and for others it will happen along the way. But it must happen at some point – the sooner the better.

3)   Create a defined role

You can’t get the best out of volunteers if they’re not sure what they’re supposed to be doing. I usually start the process by asking a volunteer the following questions:

  •  What would you like to do?
  • What do you think you could do?
  • What have you done in the past?

I then take that information and pray, reflect, discuss and then devise an informed plan for their role. It’s always better to start small and see if people rise to the challenge or not.
I then ensure that every volunteer’s role is broken into 3 areas:


  • Serving (for others)
  • Partnering (as part of the team)
  • Leading (own project)

And I also ensure that their role includes 3 aspects:


  • Something they’re passionate about (have vision/excitement for)
  • Something they’re challenged by, or stretched in
  • Something they have to learn (grow in knowledge/skills)

4)    Do Regular Reviews

Meet with volunteers regularly to give both encouragement (communicating value) and Challenge (to stretch them further). Ask them how they think it’s going. Look for Kairos moments with them and take them round the circle.

5)    Give Responsibility

Don’t micro-manage. Give them a chance to get it right, or to fail. Give responsibility for small things and let responsibility for greater things increase from there.

6)    Make sure theres a mixture of fruitfulness and discipleship (Production and development).

There are always deadlines and things that need to be done/produced. But alongside that, look for the places where volunteers can take a bit longer/do a task a little worse, and then let them learn and own the process as you reflect on it with them so that they have opportunity to grow.


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