OR Extremely Frustrating?
Common to most volunteer groups I’ve experienced as a management consultant and trainer is that they bite off more than they can chew! Goals are generally vague and too all-encompassing, which creates feelings of frustration, prompts rapid turnover, and frequently results in failure.
For a goal to be a genuine goal and not a “wishlist” item, you’ll find at the above links — among other points — that a goal must be specific, realistic, flexible, and have a due date, and it must adhere to all 4 criteria. You may want to re-read the last sentence. It contains the guts of establishing goals that work for individuals as well as groups, and it’s worth giving some thought to each of the 4 criteria.
Why are meaningful goals particularly important in working with volunteers. Because achievement leads to feelings of success, and feelings of success are the ONLY attributes that can sustain and justify volunteer effort.
All other problem solutions mean little unless (volunteer group) members feel that they are progressing toward an achievable goal.
According to the training profession benchmark University Associates Editors Jones and Pfeiffer in one of their classic Annual Handbooks for Group Facilitators, “All other problem solutions mean little unless (volunteer group) members feel that they are progressing toward an achievable goal.”
One way to accomplish the task of setting realistic objectives — based on consensus and group decision-making methods — “is for volunteers to set aside a block of time to devote totally to planning,” say Jones and Pfeiffer.
Volunteer groups, the much-acclaimed editing team experts go on to say, also need to establish meaningful and appropriate contracts between group members and the organization. And these contracts need to spell out what each individual can and will do.
To function at a high performance level, volunteers should also have regularly-scheduled group meetings, individual written job descriptions, and a permanent agenda item of “Are we meeting our job descriptions and how should they be upgraded as we go forward?”
Leadership and accountability require designation of project leaders and a volunteer coordinator, plus a “buddy system” orientation arrangement for introducing new group members. Rewards (e.g., expense grants, certificates, academic credits, extra training opportunities, news release coverage, commendation letters), and attention to the process that evolves are all critical ingredients in making volunteer group leadership work.