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Getting volunteers beyond the basics
As you develop your processes, think simplicity. You may want to rethink some of your workflows that can make more sense to someone walking up to the gear for the first time. If it’s an audio console, for example, how much banking of the console do they need to do?

Beyond Basics with Volunteers: Take Time to Train, Aim for Low Risk of Error

People are always willing to try harder and do their best, when it comes from someone they trust, know, and can count on, to have face-to-face conversations. 

Developing your volunteer base can be a challenge.

The goal here is always make your asks, trainings, standards - whatever it is you lead your teams with - by keeping it relational.

The largest challenge I find from a leadership perspective, is that we must work extremely hard to set-up volunteers to win.

Whether you are a small or large organization, planning for your team’s success takes a lot of planning. Without it, your volunteer teams may stay mired in the basic training stages, longer than necessary.

Be relational, not remote, with your volunteers

First things first, before you embark on asking a lot of an individual, be willing to have time for them in person.

The main reasons for that is, human beings are relational.

Whether we want it this way or not, we have an inherent nature to work toward a goal that accomplishes something, and often the end result is that what we have done pleases people.

The goal here is always make your asks, trainings, standards - whatever it is you lead your teams with - by keeping it relational.

People are always willing to try harder and do their best, when it comes from someone they trust, know, and can count on, to have face-to-face conversations. 

We have this thing called Planning Center Online, Google Docs, and other organizational software, in which it is an amazing tool for scheduling and organizing volunteers.

But it’s a tool that communicates with them remotely and is extremely nonrelational.

Always aim to establish and maintain that one-on-one relationship, when it comes to developing volunteers. If you have a large volunteer base, you might not have the bandwidth to maintain that one-on-one with so many individuals. If that is the case, delegate those relationships to others, such as various staff or volunteer leaders.

Set goals for how far you want to take volunteers

In an ideal situation for your organization, ask yourself the following:

How many serving positions do we want volunteers to be filling?

What skill sets do they need to perform those tasks?

Yes, some volunteer positions could be deemed entry-level volunteer positions. Other positions, though, from operating audio to programming lighting, could require years of training.

Regardless of the training level associated with a particular position, put those goals on your list for volunteers to eventually be filling. If you don’t have goals written down, you will never get there.

The reason we write goals down is to look at the potential for which we can increase God’s kingdom of servants.

A good suggestion to start is, create role descriptions for each area you need to fill, on a regular basis. It can be a staff position that is needed or a true volunteer position. Just recently, I introduced writing role descriptions to our teams.

While we have not yet completed all the descriptions just yet, we have several positions including new positions mapped out, which is a long-term goal to complete.

As you write out your goals and descriptions for volunteers, add to the descriptions any of the following: what the position requires in terms of skills, benchmarks, requirements, training, qualifications, and physical requirements.

At this point, you will have a pretty good idea of what is really needed from a person to perform this role. This doesn’t need to be a step-by-step job description of the day, but an overall look of the role.

Plan out training steps

Once you have all your role descriptions in place, it’s time to start walking people through the process, to get them into that role. To do this, you will next develop several training steps, to allow that individual to successfully achieve that role.

Some of these steps can include just being an observer, but I must warn that people placed in that position, won’t stick around too long, if they are not able to contribute. As the phase goes, “use them or lose them.” The same can be said that if you fail to develop people, they will go somewhere else, where they feel that others have invested in them.

As you develop your processes, think simplicity. You may want to rethink some of your workflows that can make more sense to someone walking up to the gear for the first time. If it’s an audio console, for example, how much banking of the console do they need to do? You might think banking more than necessary is fun, but it’s disorienting to those who are navigating your particular gear for the first time.

Another thing to think about is cleaning up your presets, templates, storage files, etc. Whatever software or gear you have, I bet most of us have piles of old information sitting in preset folders. If you want to speed up your volunteer processes, clean out those old presets and streamline exactly what you want used.

Now let’s break down the role into its basics. From there, introduce your volunteer to get hands on with those basics. Along the way, continue to expose them to the big picture.

Along the way, maybe even spend some time with them learning that big picture. A great example of that is someone who wants to mix audio, but where it may take them months before they can run an event. Begin by having them do virtual soundcheck from day one, becoming familiar with audio console basics.

Think about your most training-required role. Begin to write down several benchmarks that person needs to meet, before you can release them to learn the next benchmark. I always encourage introducing and perhaps training on the next one or two steps or benchmarks down the road. By doing so, more familiarity and confidence is introduced, as they continue on their training path.

Be prepared to let them do it

The last step is that you need to be prepared to let your volunteers do the work. You’ve done your homework, cleaned up your console workflows, narrowed down your template folders, followed through with your training plans, after which these people are hitting the benchmarks.

Now is the time to let them take the reins.

As you seat volunteers into new roles, a couple of things come to mind that you need to hold with high value.

First off, place them into a win-win environment. It’s really important that volunteers are set-up to win. By doing that, you may need to target low-risk environments with lower leadership expectations and easier event needs that must be met.

If your volunteer has trained and met all the requirements for a higher risk environment, also ensure that they are performing with a low-risk of error.

Second, aim to be 100 percent hands off. These volunteers haven’t worked hard, for you to still be reaching over them, doing what they came here to do.

Be there with them throughout the event, to coach them through any sudden changes. My only exception to this rule would be a much more complicated task that they have not yet learned, and it is a live, critical event change.

If we are still in a rehearsal time, I will still verbally walk the operator through the process, even though they have not yet entirely learned what they did. But you might be surprised, though, as I often find that they learn just as much, when you throw new instruction at them on the fly.

 

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