“The strength of brand loyalty begins with how your product makes people feel.” This quote from Jay Samit may be referring to a product but I find that it aligns with my theory on creating loyal volunteers.
Last fall our team embarked on the epic adventure known as the SALT17 tour. At one of our stops I met Julie and Sandra. Julie is on staff at the church and works tirelessly making sure that people in her church are well served and feel a sense of connection. Sandra is a volunteer at the church. During our 2 days, for the conference, I got to know Julie and Sandra pretty well.
Sandra had been going to the church for quite some time and from what I gathered from Julie, Sandra was a very valuable asset to the church volunteer base. Sandra is in her late 50s, and during those 2 days she put in about 22 hours of volunteer time. Her presence spoke volumes to me. While Sandra and I were were talking I asked her several things about when she started coming to the church, how she got involved etc. Out of that conversation I made a comment to her about how blessed our SALT team was by all of the volunteers and their willingness to help and by the shear number of volunteers we had. Her comment, “well that is because of Julie, I wouldn’t be here helping if it wasn’t for her.” Intrigued by that I dug further to find out her WHY, and her response was to go into detail about how Julie connected her to other people, how she supported her and appreciated her. The bottom line, Sandra felt valued and wanted to volunteer because Julie helped her see her importance.
This got me thinking about volunteers at other churches. At times it seems that churches are constantly trying to “find” new people and twist their arm into helping. Julie didn’t seem to be stressed about finding volunteers, she honestly seemed really happy, upbeat and I figured the answer had to be…. loyal volunteers. How does Julie create loyal volunteers?
In the book, The Volunteer Project; Stop Recruiting and Start Retaining volunteers that were interviewed described their roles as…
“life giving, full of opportunity to make new friends, fueling their pursuit of meaning, enjoyable and propelling them forward at home and work”
This is Sandra! Based on my conversation with Sandra and taking a page from Julie’s handbook on how to treat volunteers. I came up with 5 Ways to Create Loyal Volunteers.
Do what they do
Julie showed up for load in and stayed through load out the next day. Julie never left, she stayed on campus until every volunteer finished. I have this belief that if I’m not willing to do what my volunteers, interns, staff do then I shouldn’t ask them to do it. So whether it’s cleaning a mess that the kids left after making memories using glue and glitter or getting to the church extremely early, I believe if I’m not willing to get my hands dirty then why would I ask another to do it.
Connect Volunteers to each other
I am not sure if it is Julie’s bubbly personality or….. well strike that I am pretty positive it is Julie’s bubbly personality that makes the loyal volunteer. She is fun to be around and she creates an atmosphere that naturally makes a person want to stick around. Brings FOMO to a new level. Julie is a connector, she was introducing people to us and us to them. She wants to make sure no one is left out. From what I could tell the volunteers all seemed to know each other really well which made hanging out with us and working for 2 days a lot more enjoyable.
Get to know your volunteer
Christine Kreisher, a speaker at SALT, made this statement that still sticks with me, “Everyone can volunteer somewhere, but no one can serve anywhere.” Weeks before our arrival, Julie contacted us about how many volunteers we would need for SALT. She wanted details on what jobs were needed, how many people we might need for each job, and what each job entailed. From that point on Julie was able to align SALT’s needs with the passions of the volunteers. In Sandra’s case, Julie knew Sandra was great at hospitality and by having Sandra take care of our crew and the attendees for lunch and snack she knew Sandra would own that role and ENJOY doing it.Everyone can volunteer somewhere, but no one can serve anywhere.-Christine Kreisher Click To Tweet
A simple thank you
After the conference was over and I was back home in Nashville, I found myself texting back and forth with Julie and it was late. I asked her what she was still doing at church and her response “writing thank yous to the volunteers that helped with SALT.” The time it takes for you to write a thank you pales in comparison to the time that volunteer put in to help with an event. So write a dang note!
Make sure to be organized and communicate
Julie was brilliant at this. When we arrived at the location for load in the volunteers were there and ready to work. They knew what time to arrive, what they were doing, and where to be and how long we would need them. There were no surprises (and I hate those kind of surprises). She used a program on her computer, like Planning Center or Sign Up Genius to plug people into time slots and give them all of the information they may need for that role.
So I sum this up with, Who is Your Julie? If you don’t have one, find one and if you do have one make sure to give her praise for the amazing job she is doing.
Did you know that SALT created a FREE Training Guide for your Volunteers? Check it out!