Communicating with Volunteers: 8 Ways to Get It Right


If your volunteers are struggling with unanswered questions, your communication strategy might be to blame. Clear and timely communication is essential for any ministry volunteer program. Here are eight ways to improve your communication with volunteers.

  • Consider your current communication methods. Do they fit your volunteers? Is your message getting through or is it getting lost? For example, many people today don’t open their mail or check their personal email every day. However, they do read text messages. One study showed that 90 percent of texts are read within three seconds.
  • Along with the obvious “when” and “where” of volunteering, communicate impact with your volunteers. Where have they made a difference? Share personal stories, positive outcomes, and data that points to progress.
  • As you communicate with those who serve, be consistent. Perhaps it’s a weekly email or a monthly post on a Facebook page. Be sure you’re communicating with volunteers beginning at orientation, continuing through their service, and ending with an expression of appreciation.
  • In addition to sending out information, your communication methods should also involve listening. Create a way for volunteers to provide feedback. Volunteers can provide a kind of boots-on-the-ground insight into ministry programs that leaders have no other way of getting. This is a crucial part of evaluating and refreshing ministry programs.
  • Be mindful of volunteers’ learning preferences. Some people are visual; some are auditory; some are tactile. You can employ different communication styles based on this. For example, some volunteers may prefer a printed map of your campus while others may need a walking tour.
  • Share the responsibility of volunteer communication with others. This may be other staff members or other volunteer leaders. Keep your ears open to volunteers but delegate the main communication responsibility to people you trust.
  • Encourage all volunteers to participate in an exit interview. Keep this conversation as open and honest as possible. With this type of communication, your two goals are to listen for honest feedback about your program and to convey your appreciation to the volunteer.
  • Your communication methods should evolve over time. Volunteers’ wants, needs, and perspectives will change throughout their time of service. Keep your communication methods fresh so that you can continue to build relationships with volunteers.

 

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