Recruiting and Keeping Your Volunteers Around
My name is Jewell and if you have ordered anything with Lambda AV you have probably received an email from me as I work to fill orders, schedule installs, and send invoices. If you haven’t heard from me, hopefully you will in the future; I’d love to meet all of you! This article is from the perspective of both a volunteer and as someone who is learning the AV industry from the company I work for. My experiences come from volunteering for my own church in AV, as well as many other volunteer and volunteer management positions working on theater productions and even with being a General Manager to employees in past work related positions in the guest service industry. Hopefully that helps you understand where I have come from and why Ryan asked me to write this article. I hope it brings you a bit of insight and of course I’d be happy to hear from you too about this topic!
Lots of Audio Visual systems are run with the help of a volunteer or could be completely based on volunteers. As an AV person who has made tech a part of your life, your first thought about volunteers may be where to find them and convince them to help you! But there may be more to recruiting volunteers than you might have initially thought.
The first step, naturally, is to find people who are willing to volunteer. More than that, you need to find people who are willing to learn a complicated system. After that “easy” first step, you need to find a way to organized them, be willing and able to work around their schedules and take on the task of training them. Training employees can take an amazing amount of patience and flexibility, but sometimes it can take even more with volunteers. If you don’t take the time to do things well or are unorganized it can be frustrating as a volunteer and…we may just leave. After all, we don’t HAVE to be there. And that will be frustrating to you!
So, how can you make an experience that your volunteers will enjoy, understand and be helpful with the things you need to get done? It’s the age-old question of recruiting free labor.
Where slavery was an option in ancient Egypt, most have resorted to bribery or, in some cases, guilt tripping. Where bribery can be useful, especially in the case of providing food or coffee, there are better options to help you find volunteers and keep them. Options that will create an environment of happy, loyal workers and happy unstressed managers.
1. Be nice. Some of the best volunteer experiences are created by having fun with the people you are working with. I am 90% more likely to volunteer if I know I’ll be working with kind, encouraging people. Hey, we’re all human, just smile and offer a kind word and be willing to answer questions and you’ll have people stick around.
2. Inform. Provide a way to tell people what kind of service you need. Be open about sharing what your end goal is and what you hope to accomplish. From there volunteers are able to tell you, “I can do such and such, but not the other part”. This will leave you opportunity to offer training or for a second person to offer the rest of the service.
3. Offer feedback. I have been on both extremes of this. In some cases there is so much feedback that I might despair that I’ll ever do it well. So, why volunteer to put myself in that situation? I might as well let an expert handle it. On the other hand, if you aren’t willing to offer tips and suggestions, how are your volunteers supposed to learn and grow in their role? How cann you conquer these two extremes? Always, always be HONEST…With a measure of grace. Rule of thumb to follow: Offer a compliment, Give one or two tips and feedback, Finish with Thanks or Compliment. Volunteers will learn and get better. Have the patience for that to happen, but be willing to teach them and they’ll stick around.
4. Stay organized. This is important. There are multiple volunteer aspects this can apply to.
The first point I'll suggest is organized training. Arrange to have specific times for people to come and learn. Saying "Come any Wednesday you want for training" is frustrating when you show up and there is nothing you can do or learn. It would be better to ask them if their is a day they could come or find a way to schedule them into a slot that works for you! They will be less likely to “just show up” whenever they want and willguarantee someone to be there to show them the ropes.
Second, if you can’t stay organized or aren’t sure what to have your volunteers do when they do come, they will wonder why you asked for volunteers in the first place (Unless was a plea to keep you creative types organized!). Most people volunteer for a reason. To help. Let them help and be prepared in advance with starter tasks for them to do. Write lists of things that need to be done and assign according to how much training each volunteer has already received.
5. Schedule. One of the systems that I have enjoyed being a part of is: planning.center. Your volunteers can schedule out days they can’t help and then you can add them to your calendar accordingly. After that, they can accept or refuse your invitation to volunteer on that day. This not only helps you to officially schedule them and automatically gives them reminders, but it will help you from over scheduling your volunteers. The last thing you should ever do is rely on your volunteers so much that you burn them out and make them try to avoid you! Check it out and see if it’d be right for you.
As someone who has never been very involved in working with tech, it’s intimidating to try. But it’s still something I want to do and learn more about. I find it incredibly fun to do and am happy to volunteer. Sometimes just opening up and offering to train someone, an anyone can do this attitude, will be enough to help people take the first step in volunteering and help make your life easier. I am so thankful my church has provided a way for me to learn and help out!
If volunteers are an important part of running your AV system, take a few minutes to think over your process and see if there are ways you can improve it. It could make a world of difference in who volunteers and who sticks around to keep helping. Have fun!!
How to get volunteers and keep them volunteering You might be asking yourself what does Pizza, ACDC, and JJ Abrams have to do with church tech? We will get to that. But for as long as I can remember I have volunteered at my home church and enjoyed every second of it because of things like these.
As a Church tech director, worship pastor or pastor you know that volunteers are the most crucial and sometimes most complicated part of any area of church. Volunteers are needed because its just not possible nor a great idea to have a full time staff member for everything that is needed on Sunday morning. With that said it can be frustrating to work with people who aren’t paid to be there and many times especially in tech areas are not experienced in ways that a professional might be. It can also be frustrating when, for no apparent reason, volunteers start to drop of and no longer volunteer, or even leave the church. Then again maybe you are a volunteer yourself and you feel undervalued, or burnt out or maybe feel like you are just there to fill a spot and no one would really miss you. Maybe we need to really think about what the bible says about the purpose for volunteers is.
Ephesisans 4:15-16 we see that as we are saved and grow in Him, we become one body of Christ “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
So we are one body and then in Ephesisans 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” we are one household.
So as one body and one household and in Romans 8:9 “ You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” we are also one in spirit.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12 it talks about that this body one in spirit in the same household is made of many parts “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” and that all these parts are one body with Christ
So lets just start again on volunteers with this attitude that we are all a part of the body of Christ, we are all in this one sometimes carpeted, folding chair, hymnal filled, coffee and juice stained household, we are one in Spirit and we all are different parts of the body united with Christ. So yes every person can have and should have a valued place somewhere serving in the church I am talking to leadership and volunteers here.
Now just for leadership, we are finally getting back to the title here. J. J. Abrams is one of my favorite film directors. He is my favorite not because of the specific movies he has made or how empty I felt at the end of LOST but because of something he does with his stories. He makes us feel like we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. This is what takes a boring volunteer job or group of volunteers and makes them a team that can conquer the world for Christ. When I was in college I directed a small quiz show for PBS. The crew of the show was not a bunch of seasoned professionals paid to be there but instead a group of new to TV volunteers. Early on, a fellow director taught me something called “The walk”. Every day before we started I made it my personal goal to greet every person on the crew at their position. I would talk to them, ask them about their job, tell them what they were doing well and give them some fun ideas on how to do their job even better. I connected with them and I built community. Usually, by the second or third week everyone was excited for me to come around and many times everyone would be in a group waving and talking when I entered the studio. This is not because I was a particularly great director but because I cared about them and I worked with them and took them from feeling like just a camera person to feeling like a crew and feeling like they had a common task I needed them all for. Notice I focused on three things, each person, their relationship together, and the importance of continually improving their skills.
Here is another idea for building community; its called pizza! Really lots of food works and actually I get tired of pizza and even Jimmy Johns sometime. A meal together really isn’t that expensive and helps community a lot. The church I serve in feeds us every time we walk in the building and wow we have certainly had some fun… the “hop scotch in the kitchen” Easter incident of 2010. The lesson here is pour into your volunteers, give them friendship, knowledge, food, and most importantly make it all about something bigger than just tech or greeting.
For the volunteers out there, I personally believe not only should we tithe of our finances but we should tithe of our other gifts and knowledge that God has given us. So, here it is… If you are reading this and you aren’t volunteering to serve in the church, you need to! Get in there and be a part of the body. If you don’t feel connected it may be that you aren’t doing what gamblers call “Putting skin in the game.” You aren’t connecting yourself in a way that gives you some ownership in the body. Jump in and serve to serve. When my wife and I joined our church one of the first things I did was call and ask how I could serve in my area of skill on the tech team. Within a few weeks I was running camera and the presentation computer, and most importantly, getting to know the worship team. One other thing I want to stress with volunteers is “YOU ARE A VOLUNTEER” don’t work as a volunteer simply because you want to be payed eventually, don’t complain that you aren’t payed and don’t give the job anything less than your best because you aren’t payed. Remember this verse in Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”. Why would you give service to God that is anything less than your best?
Last of all we are called to worship Psalms 99:5 “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his footstool; He is Holy.” Part of worship is service and living as Jesus would and part of living as Jesus would is serving others so get in there have some fun and encourage the band to play ACDC every time the worship pastor turns around to talk during practice it’s hilarious! Comment bellow with some fun memories you have of volunteering or working with volunteers and be sure share your daily volunteer and worship team fun with @orangehatryan with the hashtag #volunteermoments .