What Motivates Volunteers

Do you want to see your volunteers excited about serving?  Do you want to see them beam with pride when asked what area of the church they serve in?  Do you want them to show up on time, prepared and ready to give their best? 

This only happens when volunteers are motivated.  That leads us to a big question.  How do you motivate volunteers?  Here are five big factors. 

Volunteers long to be part of something that matters...
something bigger than themselves.  They want to be involved in a big vision...something that is changing lives and making a difference. 

This means if you want to motivate your volunteers, it is critical that you keep pointing them to the vision.  Keep reminding them why they are doing what they are doing.  The "what" alone is not motivational.  I talk more about this in this post.

Questions to ask:
1. Do I have a clear vision that our volunteers can articulate?
2. Is the vision big enough?  Is it worth giving your life to?
2. Do I constantly emphasize the vision? (read about putting your vision on loop here)

Volunteers want to know that they matter and what they do matters.  Deep inside we all want to know that our time here on the earth mattered.  We all long to leave our footprint.  We want to know that our life made a difference.  That's why most people tear up when someone is telling them how they've impacted their life.  It's a deep emotional need that we long to see fulfilled.

My wife and I are in the process of moving.  We have been married for over 27 years so we had accumulated a house full of "stuff."  You know...curio cabinets, couches, tables, dressers, nightstands, decorations, bookshelves...all the normal stuff you find in a house.  When we decided to move, we made the decision to sell everything...and I mean everything, except for our clothes, picture albums and a few family heirlooms.  We hired an auction company to come and take everything and sell it.  I went to the auction the night everything was sold and watched it go away piece by piece. 

So as I am typing this, I am sitting in an empty home.  All we have left is one old couch, a TV and a mattress we are sleeping on until the house sells.  It's been a stark reminder to me of something.  In the end, when everything is stripped away, all that really matters...all that is left...is the people you have impacted and the relationships you have with them.  That's it.  Everything else falls away. 

Deep down inside, your volunteers know this and they'll invest their lives in impacting others if you'll show them they matter and what they do matters beyond the "stuff."

Questions to ask:
1. Am I affirming volunteers by telling them they matter?  That what they do matters?
2. Am I showing volunteers they matter by sharing stories of life change and impact with them?
3. Am I helping volunteers see what really matters?

Volunteers want to be known.  They want to be part of a family.  They want to know they are missed when they are sick or out-of-town.  They want to be able to do life with a group of people.  They want to know that people care about them not because they are filling a spot in a classroom, but because they are loved and valued. 

I've often said that relationship is the super glue that keeps volunteers serving and motivated. Volunteers that belong show up.  Volunteers that belong are energized by serving with the people that surround them.  Volunteers that belong go the distance.

Questions to ask:
1. Am I cultivating a culture of "family?"
2. Am I providing volunteers with opportunities to spend time together outside of serving?
3. Are volunteers known and being personally cared for?

Volunteers want to be placed where they can use the gifts and talents God has given them.  There's nothing more demotivating than serving in a role that doesn't line up with your passion and gifting.  If you have a lot of character, you'll hang in there, but you won't enjoy it.  But when a volunteer is placed in a role that lines up with his or her gifting, they will be energized by it and thrive. 

If you want to see your volunteers motivated from the get-go, then take time to place them in their "sweet spot."  Here's more help on how you can help them find their sweet spot.

Questions to ask:
1. Am I placing people where I need them or where they need to be?
2. Do I have a clear process and steps for helping people discover and use their gifts?
2. Do I follow up with people after they start serving to make sure they are in their sweet spot?

Volunteers want to personally grow.  If you have volunteers who seem bored or they're just going through the motions, it may be because you're not challenging them to grow.  Our job as leaders, is to invest in volunteers and stretch them to new levels.  That bored volunteer may just be waiting for you to give him or her more responsibility.  That bored volunteer may be ready to step up and lead other volunteers, if you'd just ask.  That bored volunteer is just waiting for you to call them up to use their gifts at a deeper level.  Always be challenging your volunteers to go deeper, to grow in their gifts and leadership responsibilities. 

Questions to ask:
1. Am I investing in my volunteers and challenging them to step outside of their current comfort zone?
2. Which volunteers do I need to approach about taking on more responsibility?
3. Am I using volunteers to build the ministry or using the ministry to build volunteers? 

How motivated are your volunteers?  Want to see them more motivated?  Then point them to the purpose, show them their true significance, help them have a sense of belonging, place them in their area of gifting and continually challenge them to grow.