Lack of Volunteer Role Clarity
Lack of volunteer role clarity can lead to confusion and frustration. No one likes not knowing what’s going on. Imagine walking onto a large green field for the first time to play a new game called, “Garble Ball.” The ref hands you large yellow ball, blows his whistle and instructs you to play. But, you have no idea what to do. You don’t understand the rules, boundaries, or even how to score to win. By not knowing how to play, you would undoubtedly mess up pretty quickly. It would not take long for you to become frustrated enough to quit playing altogether. Garble Ball is clearly not for you! This exact situation happens to volunteers on a regular basis.
A hopeful volunteer takes a step out in faith to sign up to serve in some form or fashion. They’re nervous and aren’t totally sure what they’re getting themselves into, but want to help. But, then they’re thrown into a situation they’re totally unprepared for and have no idea how to succeed. They’re suddenly living the classic nightmare of arriving at school with no pants on, or being asked to formally address a large crowd with no prepared speech. They have no idea what to do or what’s expected of them, feel silly, then frustrated, then quit.
Volunteer Clarity Matters
When working with volunteers research shows role clarity is important. Research shows a lack of role clarity contributes to volunteers’ intention to quit. Before you throw new volunteers into new situations, make sure they know what to do. Write out their role, along with role expectations. Help them understand what the win looks like for what they’re doing. When a person understands the nature of success, they can better assess if they’re doing a good job or not. It also gives the volunteer leader common language to later discuss with the volunteer how they think they’re doing in that role.
Whether you serve on a non-profit board or a church leader, it’s important to take some time to write down and clarify volunteer roles and role expectations. People need to know how to win and what’s expected.
My Mistake in Role Clarity
I make mistakes in this area all the time. When I think back to volunteers who have quit over the years, I wonder if the reason they ultimately quit was lack of role clarity. There are times that leading volunteers feels like a battle where my side is suffering many casualties. In the moment, and out of desperation, I have sent willing volunteers into battle without sword or adequate training. I needed bodies in battle, so sent new volunteers out hoping they’ll figure out how to fight and win.
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to clarifying volunteer roles and expectations- this is true. I have found greater success with volunteers when I have taken the time to clarify their roles, along with expectations. I admit this is sometimes difficult, but if we are hoping to help a volunteer succeed long term in a volunteer role, role clarity is essential.
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