Ask Fred > Career/Work > How do I manage volunteers?

Select a Category:

Dear Fred

I work with lots of volunteers. While some excel, others just don't see the need to be proactive. How do you address this with volunteers. You can't fire them, how do you ask them to get off the bus. (to use jim collins terms)

Fred's Response

Handling volunteers well seems to be almost a gift. A friend of mine refers to this work as "herding cats." It is important to pick the right people, not just those who are casually available. They should feel enough passion to make a commitment. They should be joining the organization to contribute rather than just for social reasons. There is no seat on the bus for the irresponsible. One of the most difficult parts of leading volunteer programs is moving someone out. But it is important to make sure that everyone in the program fits. You need voluntters on whom you can count - not just to please you but to get the important work done. When this situation arises, let the person know how you appreciate their contribution but that you need "their seat" for someone else. You can't fire them, but you can ask them to give their seat to another. You can put them on a reserve list rather than the active one. Be sure you are regularly expressing gratitude to the responsible ones. One of the problems is that people often confuse "volunteerism" with "showing up when it is convenient." Some of the most robust volunteer organizations have clear standards and set the bar high... it is a privilege to serve and one that must be upheld. Being a volunteer is an honor, a responsibility and hard work ---nothing to be taken lightly.