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How Goal Setting Can Supercharge Your Volunteer Program

Volunteers are the life-blood of non-profits.

They are typically passionate about the cause, are committed to sharing their experience and time to the success of the organization, and often work alongside paid employees – for free.

As an organization, it can be tempting to fill your time sheet with scores of volunteers. But how can you be sure that the volunteers are effective and efficient? Can you use goal setting with volunteers to engage them in the work of your organization?

Setting goals for volunteers seems counterintuitive. They’re volunteering their time, so it may seem presumptuous to set a list of criteria that you want them to work toward.

However, the principle, ‘Without a vision, the people perish,” holds true for both volunteers and paid positions. If you’re attempting to integrate a successful volunteer program into your organization, it may be time to set some goals. What benefit does setting goals have for your volunteers?

Goals give direction

For paid employees, goal setting is an effective strategy to provide direction and motivation to pursue a specific milestone. For volunteers, this is an even more critical component to successful volunteering. Ambiguous directions, such as ‘assisting staff’ or ‘helping clients’ offers little in vision about the purpose of the volunteer program.

In a domino effect, ambiguous job responsibilities can lead to lackluster recruits, which can lead to dissatisfaction with the organization, which can lead to reduced funding for volunteers, and so on. Instead of hoping your volunteers ‘figure out’ what the direction of their position should be, provide clear instruction through setting goals.

Goals support the mission of the organization

Each organization has its own purpose and mission. To achieve those goals, the organization needs people with a particular set of skills to reach accomplish the mission. By stating goals clearly, current, and potential volunteers will know if they are a suitable match for the mission of the organization. This works to eliminate volunteers who may have a different priority than the organization, and to help screen potential volunteers for the skills that you need to reach your goals.

Goals enrich recruitment

Individuals looking to connect with an organization through volunteering are often looking for purpose. They want to feel as though they have contributed to a cause they believe in, and that their efforts are not in vain. Describing goals to potential volunteer recruits allows them to see exactly what type of impact their efforts will have, and helps engage them in the work of the organization. When offered the opportunity to participate in a specific function of the organization, people will respond.

Goals offer recognition opportunities

Perhaps even more than paid employees, volunteers thrive on recognition. They want to feel appreciated, and will blossom in an environment that prioritizes acknowledgement. Effective goal setting will provide your organization with measurable components that can be used to reward and recognize volunteers.

Goals improve organizations

Using goal setting with volunteers ensures that they align with the mission of the organization, and further ensures that they know they role they are to play. Organizations can use goal setting as a means of developing skills in their volunteers, and can lead to greater satisfaction among the volunteers. As a result, the entire organization will improve, creating a cascade of success. An improved volunteer corps can be the difference between a successful organization and an unsuccessful one. The missing piece? Goal setting.

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