Volunteer managers and delegation: Part 4

A volunteer base is important to volunteer managers. How is it that volunteer managers are able to get so much done with and through volunteers? It’s through delegation. Learn more about tips and tricks to effective delegation through this article series.

This is the fourth and final article in a series by Michigan State University Extension that focuses on volunteer managers and delegation. Read Volunteer managers and delegation: part 1, Volunteer managers and delegation: Part 2, and Volunteer managers and delegation: Part 3 to learn about the other topics discussed in this series.

Volunteer managers often have a lot to do and have very little time to accomplish the tasks at hand. That’s why a volunteer base is so important to volunteer managers. How is it that volunteer managers are able to get so much done with and through volunteers? It’s through delegation. Delegation may seem like a simple concept, but it can actually be much more difficult than one might think.

In previous the articles MSU Extension explored some pitfalls to delegation, but it’s most important to learn how to effectively delegate. Volunteer managers are the leaders of a team and a key to the success of a volunteer- run organization. Volunteer mangers are likely to be efficient at their management role, but also need to be effective at delegating and empowering volunteers. Every organization that utilizes volunteers hopes for individuals who are involved, committed and responsive to whatever task they are given.

The Virginia Office of Volunteerism provides the following techniques of effective delegation:

  • Assess the work requirements and abilities of volunteers. Do they have the skills to assume the new responsibility? If not, what must you do to train them? Do their skills provide the right “match” between the tasks required and their abilities to accomplish your demands?
  • Communicate your expectations clearly. Specifically state what it is you need accomplished. Is there a time requirement? Describe what it is you want done, by what time and to what standards. This not only helps you achieve your goals, but also provides the necessary guidelines for volunteers to be successful.
  • Assess their understanding. Ask volunteers to explain the assignments, as they understand them. What areas are still unclear? Have you accurately communicated the tasks to be accomplished?
  • Build confidence and success. This can easily be accomplished by providing challenging yet responsible, work-related projects. Help volunteers gain confidence by giving them tasks in which they can exercise their personal and professional judgment while enjoying the strong probability of meeting your demands.
  • Encourage decisions and suggestions. Volunteers will often avoid taking responsibilities because they are unsure of their skills. To counter this, elicit suggestions and reinforce the initiative they display in making decisions. Remember people support what they help develop.
  • Be reasonable and flexible. Effective volunteer leaders keep assignments within reasonable expectations of what can be accomplished, both in time and in quantity. Anticipate interruptions and obstacles and make adjustments where necessary.
  • Build openness and accessibility. Recognize that volunteers may be reluctant to report unfinished projects or failures to you. Encourage them to bring problems to you early.
  • Provide responsibility. When you delegate a task, be sure you give the responsibility and authority that goes with it. Without the proper resources and support, volunteers and the delegated projects are doomed to failure. When you provide opportunities for volunteers to contribute to projects, their confidence and enthusiasm for these projects increase.
  • Monitor progress. Check with volunteers on the progress of their assignments. Do not wait until the project due date to evaluate their success. Your interest in monitoring the progress of the assignments reflects your concern for their performance. Effective volunteer leaders know that they have to “inspect what they expect.”
  • Expect improvement, not perfection. If tasks or assignments can only be done one way and that way is your way, then you are much better off to do it yourself. Otherwise, you will continually set volunteers up for failure and stifle their willingness to risk displaying initiative. In addition, it should be remembered that “success is improvement, not perfection.”
  • Provide feedback and recognition. The most important motivation for people is feedback on their efforts. However, all too often, volunteer leaders forget to compliment their volunteers for specific task completion. Verbal compliments are effective and appreciated, but for some volunteers written messages count double. Remember that when you let those around you shine, you shine with them.

This series of articles focused on volunteer managers and delegation explored volunteer manager responsibilities, personal barriers to delegation, times when it’s appropriate to delegate and times when it’s not appropriate to delegate, and finally, some techniques for effective delegation. 

Other articles in this series:

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