One the most challenging aspects of running a ministry is utilizing high-capacity volunteers effectively. We have heard stories of the corporate CEO who volunteers only to be stuck stuffing envelopes. That is a terrible and discouraging use of time and talent. How do we place motivated volunteers in the right place, doing the right things, so they are inspired by their service and involvement with our ministry?
Here are four steps I use:
1. Qualify the person: I like to have a one-on-one meeting with every high-capacity volunteer to ask a few key questions and to assess their fit for ministry:
• When in your faith journey did you become passionate about helping the extreme poor (our mission)?
• What is your occupation?
• What talents and expertise will you bring for the ministry?
I am looking for synergies and opportunities for alignment between their spiritual and workplace experience and our volunteer needs.
2. Explain the mission and needs. Many volunteers know far less about our mission than we think they do. I spend 30 minutes or more explaining our mission, vision and transformational model. I want to find out what part of our ministry resonates with them and connect them as close to those aspects that excite them most.
3. Present the SHAPE Model to help volunteers identify their talents and gifts. Part of the problem with placing high capacity volunteers in the right places is that sometimes they don’t always know what they want to do. For the last six months, I have been using the SHAPE Model and I’ve seen some amazing results. This model helps people self identify which role they might want to explore.
The SHAPE Model is made up of 5 categories of volunteers.
S: Sage. A sage is someone who brings wisdom or years of expertise to the organization. As I am describing the SHAPE Model to the prospective volunteer, I usually say: “I would consider you a Sage because of your expertise in Peru or your understanding of non-profit finances.”
H: Helper. These are people who want to get their hands dirty. They’ll do just about any work a leader asks them to do.
A: Ambassador. An Ambassador excels as a resource for connection. They know a lot of people and know people we need to know.
P: Philanthropist. Do I need to say anything about this category? Tap into their unique enthusiasm to contribute for priceless results.
E: Executive Leader. An executive leader is someone who demonstrates an understanding of servant-style leadership of a team or a committee.
Most importantly, we have to ask the potential volunteer, “Which one(s) of these do you think best represents your giftedness. If they say,” I am a P.” I know they have just given me permission to ask them for a contribution. If they say “A”, then I’ll ask them to throw a party and invite their friends and colleagues, and I’ll take a few minutes at the party to explain what and how we do our mission.
4. Ask for and give grace.
Finally, I ask the high-capacity volunteer for grace. I say, “It’s my desire to enable you to have the greatest impact possible on helping the extreme poor. I want you to feel the pleasure of serving the poor while using the talents and gifts God has given you. But the process is not a science, it’s an art. If I put you in the wrong place the first time, please let me know. The next ask will be more on target. If you’ll give me a little time, and some grace, I’ll do my best to connect you for maximum joy and effectiveness. ”
For one of our most valuable volunteers, it took three different roles before he was fully engaged. Now he saves our organization thousands of dollars in doing meaning work that blesses him and blesses the poor.
Today we are lot better at connecting people to our vision and mission. How have you learned to better engage volunteers? Share your stories and comments below.