September 1, 2020
Were you aware that Transform Rockford has over 500 community volunteers? Volunteers are the breath of our organization. Our volunteers are what drive the implementation and execution of the community transformation plan. They also represent various cultures, communities, and professional sectors which provide a well-represented view of our community.
But you can’t manage people without an effective and organized plan! For many years I worked with volunteers when I was a professional fundraiser for Keith Country Day School, and I learned that knowing how to productively manage people is just as important as the management of the project itself. I’d like to share with you a few great tips that I’ve developed along the way that are not only simple but super effective.
Establish efficiency by always being prepared for your meetings with committee members/volunteers. Don’t forget, they are taking time out of their work or personal time, so respect their time and make the meetings fruitful and productive.
Have a meeting agenda, it is the key to a successful meeting! Send the agenda and all meeting materials to your committee a few days ahead of the meeting which includes the meeting date, time, and location. Include meeting minutes or notes from previous meetings with the new agenda you send. (Don’t forget to send to all departments or co-chairs for input.) Big tip here, include an “update” where an action or task was given from a previous meeting for committee members or volunteers to provide what they’ve accomplished. Also, attach a budget if you are working with sponsorships, donors, revenue, expenses – it’s difficult to make decisions if the committee doesn’t know how much or how little is budgeted for the project.
Take good notes during your meeting, or delegate the duty of scribe to a committee member. Record any action item or task given, and to whom. With Zoom, you can even record meetings or use a phone application to record important information. What’s crucial to know that we don’t see often is sending the committee notes from your meeting the next day while it’s still fresh on everyone’s mind. Color coding makes things easy for everyone to find items such as 1)Red – Action item or Task 2)Blue – Completed Task and 3)Purple – Carryover from another meeting. Additionally, include a name next to the action item or task so they can report their update at the next meeting.
Stick to the Agenda!
While in a meeting, if the conversation starts to go in another direction, step in and say the committee can visit that issue at another time, lets continue or let’s add that to next month’s agenda. Always be courteous of everyone’s time. And no matter what is going on during your workday or with this project or event, keep the conversation positive. Remember also to watch the clock or add time limits to your agenda – nobody wants to sit through extra-long meetings or ones that always run over.
When’s the Next Meeting?
Never leave your meeting without setting the next meeting date. Set recurring meetings when possible on everyone’s calendar (monthly, weekly, quarterly) Also, it’s easy for everyone to remember if you keep the meeting cadence the same day and time. Lastly, add the next meeting date/time/location to your agenda.
Keep all agendas and meeting notes in a folder or accessible drive to refer to them for the next year or event. If a committee member or volunteer is replaced, they can easily refer to previous notes. When planning events or reviewing best practices it’s always helpful to have receipts and notes hands. Also, consider adding a file with 1)Committee contact information 2)Vendor contact information and 3)Revenue/expense reports.
Remember most committee members or volunteers are coming from their own full-time job so having some sort of food or beverage to offer is typically appreciated. Have water, coffee, or tea, or, depending on the time of your meeting have food, snacks, or candy to offer!
Schedule a wrap-up or end of the year meeting to go over the good, the bad, and the ugly and any revenue/expenses. It’s even a best practice after events or projects to discuss what went and didn’t know what to do for next time. Allow space for everyone to contribute their thoughts to the discussion. Some individuals may not speak up in meetings, however, they may choose to offer their input in a written fashion. Also, consider sending out a survey before the meeting to collect thoughts and ideas.
At the closing of emails or meetings try to remember to thank volunteers for taking their time to help you. At the end of the years, campaign, or event organize a committee/volunteer appreciation lunch, dinner, happy hour with appetizers to thank them for all the time and effort they contributed. And make it nice! If the budget allows, give appreciation gifts – bottles of wine, gift cards, event shirts, handcrafted items: something showing you care will be appreciated by your committee members and volunteers.
Be Consistent and Make It Enjoyable
When you meet consistently it helps keep your team engaged and your project moving forward. Also, when you can, make it fun! A good practice is to start off meetings with a safety tip, something positive that happened in the community, or here at TR, we begin our meetings discussing shared values we see taking place in the community. Make being a part of your meetings an enjoyable experience where everyone walks away feeling like their time was valued and the tasks presented were accomplished.