Guest post by Apakshit Sachdeva
“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”—Erma Bombeck
In today’s world, volunteerism serves as a hope for restoring the virtues of compassion, empathy, and community-building. Since volunteers are such a rare and admirable resource for achieving peace and well-being, it’s imperative that nonprofits know how to utilize their potential to the fullest.
Typically, attending meetings might not be what volunteers look forward to when they join your organization. But to streamline their collective efforts, a well-planned volunteer meeting — including volunteer orientation — is the first step in ensuring that the end results are achieved.
An effective volunteer meeting serves multiple purposes. First, it brings in focus the social objectives volunteers will work together to achieve. In addition to your volunteer position description, volunteer meetings are a way to enlist all the “to-do” activities for the shift, each of which represents a step taken toward the success of your mission.
Meetings also help chart out a realistic schedule or timeline for accomplishing the said goals. By devising a “Plan B” during an effective volunteer meeting, organizations are also better prepared for unforeseen events. From training new volunteers to accessing past performance, effective volunteer meetings go a long way in synchronizing volunteer efforts and unifying volunteers with a sense of solidarity.
What are the goals of volunteers?
While it’s great to have a heart for social causes, this virtue alone cannot ensure the success of volunteer work. Compassion needs to be backed by viable goals. Having a list of goals for volunteers adds more value and depth to your volunteers’ activities.
Ambiguously stated initiatives often lead to half-hearted attempts and negatively impact the output of volunteers. When setting clear-cut goals for your volunteers, it’s important that these goals are in cohesion with the overall mission of your organization. Involve volunteers in creating effective strategies and determining the course of action. Make them an integral part of the decision-making team for planning new projects and social initiatives. Volunteer involvement should also aim to cultivate a culture of effective communication and teamwork.
VolunteerMatch’s 2016 Impact Report reveals the emergence of new trends in the area of volunteering. Certain events with global impact, especially in recent years, have resulted in increased participation of people who volunteer as an outlet for their respective social concern. Relating the social concerns of an individual volunteer with that of your organization overall is critical in defining volunteer goals. This report also points to the fact that a significant proportion of volunteers are keen on using their professional skills for volunteering activities. Rajan Taylor’s story is an excellent example of how volunteers can integrate their passion for volunteerism with their professionally-acquired skills to add more momentum to organizational goals.
Stages of conducting meeting
As mentioned before, volunteer meetings should be formally planned and organized. Planning and running an effective meeting is both an art and science when it comes to tapping the potential of a pool of talented volunteers.
The entire process should be conducted in well-defined stages, with the first one being having a systematic plan beforehand. This step includes doing comprehensive research on the need of the hour and a list of available resources. After doing your homework, come up with the specific volunteering goal to be discussed in the meeting. The entire agenda should be drafted well in advance and should also include the list of volunteers who will be attending.
The second stage is where you set-up the formal meeting. Strict adherence to the agenda and timeline is essential to the success of a meeting. This ensures that the valuable time, of both the volunteers and organization, is not wasted. The meeting area should provide attendees a comfortable space to dialogue their views, issues, concerns, and initiatives.
The third, and most crucial stage, is actually conducting the meeting. A meeting which abruptly begins without paying any attention to formal introductions and setting up an ambiance conducive to sharing is counter-productive in nature. The plan of action as prepared in the first stage needs to be discussed productively without digressing from the topic. It’s important that all points of view and suggestions are considered before concurring upon a final course of action.
The last stage, which is often overlooked, is devoting enough time and attention to the meeting follow-up. Asking the group for feedback and sending surveys are integral to the success of a meeting. Also, a reiteration of the minutes of the meeting is very important to keep volunteers well-focused and on-track.
Time-management in a volunteer meeting
It’s easy for volunteer meetings to transcend from objective discussion of agenda to subjective analysis of the plan’s trivialities. Keeping track of important issues and covering each aspect of the project as planned beforehand is only possible through effective time management. To remain true to the essence of punctuality throughout the volunteer meeting, follow these crucial steps:
- Define the goal and purpose of the meeting beforehand to remove any elements of ambiguity and uncertainty. It saves a lot of time if people know why they are attending the meeting and what do social objective do they need to accomplish.
- Plan the agenda for the meeting according to a scheduled timeframe. A rough estimate on how much time are you going to devote for introductions, discussion of the issues, delving on the insights etc, is necessary to avoid diversions.
- Use collaborative technology to ensure maximum attendance also helps to reduce time-wastage. If people are able to attend these meetings through Skype sessions, then the concern of everyone reaching the meeting on time is minimized.
- Do not review the minutes of the meetings for latecomers. It just lengthens the time-duration and could lead to few crucial points not being discussed.
- Ensuring the closure or action items of every plan listed on the agenda is an important requisite. Only when the complete course of action is decided for one element of the plan should the discussion move on the next. This saves time because one needn’t revisit the previously discussed topics.
- Keep a written record of what had been planned and how the meeting actually moved. This will give organizers an idea of how effectively did they conduct the volunteer meeting.
The below graphics developed by Hashtag17 elucidates the concept.
Have a volunteer meeting tip to add? Please share it with our readers in the comments section below.
Author Bio: Apakshit is a freelance writer and a soccer enthusiast. He is a ghostwriter and writes on entrepreneurship, marketing, and football. You can watch him in action here.