13 Ways to Lose a Great Volunteer

I have worked with volunteers - team members - since 1997. Nothing has changed since I led my first team of volunteers. Volunteers are volunteers. However, how I have led them has been different. We can both recognize how meaningful and helpful it is to have great volunteers on the team. Their impact matters. Their influence is palpable. Their inspiration is felt. Their passion is contagious. Their commitment is incredible. Their energy is ongoing. Their selflessness is admirable.

I have seen great volunteers walk away for different reasons. I have been guilty of being the leader of a team where great leaders jumped ship. I didn't like it. I didn't understand. This is where I landed...

13 ways to lose a great volunteer:

  1. Keep dead weight on the team - who you keep on the team communicates what you are willing to do for the good of the entire team
  2. Micromanage - give away more responsibility than you should to your trained team and trust them
  3. Don't manage at all - leading and managing well prevents ambiguity, annoyance, and apathy
  4. Forget to celebrate - unintentional or not, overlooking praise-worthy moments are deflating
  5. Over reward poor work - recognizing subpar work for whatever reason forecasts a new standard
  6. Keep people in the dark - not communicating helpful information frustrates and isolates
  7. Miss pastoral moments - the absence of care in key moments feels like the task is greater than the person
  8. Refuse feedback - remain open minded to new ideas and incorporate those thoughts that fit
  9. Provide no leadership pathway - show people the onramp(s) and how to get into a leadership role
  10. Walk aimlessly - give people clarity on purpose and where you are going
  11. Misunderstand the idea of rewarding - recognizing team members with awards can lead to a drop in motivation and productivity
  12. Mismatch ability and role - learn about someone and find the best place for them to serve
  13. Lack of accountability - create touch points for observations and insights
Great leaders are cultural tone setters. They are the frontline representation of the organization.