Motivation Theories

How are our leaders investing in us? Are they just putting us through the paces? Sending us to one class after another to learn and telling us to read books but not taking the time to invest their time in us? A leader’s schedule can become very hectic, and between trying to help others and follow-up with volunteers, it seems like their job never stops. But you can’t grow a volunteer unless you’re willing to invest time with them. Spending time with somebody, correcting them, teaching them, loving them, talking to them, and helping them grow doesn’t happen without that relationship.

So how do our leaders motivate us?

Value us.

One way to motivate volunteers is by showing us that we are valued. Appreciation goes a long way in keeping people involved and dedicated to the organization. It keeps them motivated to continue working and also serves as a way to fill needs such as job satisfaction. Showing volunteers how much they are appreciated and how much their contribution mattered to the organization increases the likelihood that they will return.

Give us the opportunity to grow.

Another way for leaders to motivate volunteers is by giving them a chance to develop personally. When people volunteer, they are usually looking for a way to either give back or personally evolve. Leaders should offer volunteers the opportunity to stretch themselves and reach their potential. It will keep them coming back to serve if they know doing so will also help them continue to grow.

Commitment versus confinement.

Although commitment from volunteers is necessary to show they are dedicated and willing to embark on the journey to excellence, it is also important to remember that organizations can’t expect too much from these non-paid individuals. Yes, they want to see people who come faithfully every time they are scheduled, and they can give them the responsibility that would usually go to a paid staff member. But that isn’t just commitment. Leaders shouldn’t want to hedge us in so that we are only using our gifts for them. They should want us to spread our wings and grow. Whether that is through their organization or somewhere else. The organization’s job is to help us develop personally while we are with them so when the time comes we are prepared to go to our next position of influence.

Let us choose.

Leaders should give volunteers the option to choose whether or not they will keep serving. They shouldn’t have to drag people into positions of service; it’s much nicer when volunteers come willingly. Although the word itself implies someone who freely offers to do a task, there are occasions when volunteers don’t particularly relish their job description and may not be as motivated as they once were. Letting the volunteer choose to serve provides them with the control of their destiny and helps them re-evaluate why they opted to serve in the first place and whether or not those reasons are still relevant.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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