Essential Words Leaders Need to Speak to Their Volunteers

[I’m currently on vacation until July 28th. During this time, I’ll be offline. While I’m gone I’ll be sharing some of my most popular posts. I will not be replying to the comments, however please still share your thoughts because this community is great at leading discussions.]

A lot of organizations have volunteer workers. The people who lead volunteers know the importance of finding and then retaining workers. This requires speaking some essential words to volunteers.

I have volunteered and led volunteers. After several years of experience being around volunteer workers I believe the true test of leadership is the ability to successfully lead volunteers. While this is true I think many CEO’s, executives, and managers would have a hard time leading volunteers, if not fail completely. This is because it requires pure influence to lead volunteers and not power or authority.

Volunteers freely put their time and energy into helping a cause. They are free to stop volunteering at any time without fear of losing their wellbeing (Money, job, security, etc.) They can chose to follow the leader or not. This is why I believe that if you can lead volunteers well then you can lead anyone. When it comes to influencing volunteer workers, people need to frequently hear these words from their leader:

Your valuable- The people who volunteer need to know they are valuable and what they are doing counts. If people know they are valued they will in turn show value toward the cause.

I believe in you- This words shows people you care and matter. It gives people confidence and courage to get outside of their comfort zone while volunteering.

Thank you-This word must be on the tip of every leader’s tongue. Thanking people for their time, effort, and for volunteering is so important. It’s wise to remember that a leader can’t over thank a volunteer worker. Thanking can be done verbally, in writing, by providing resources, or through gifts.

You make a difference-This shows that an individual or team effort is accomplishing something of great. Volunteering is all about making a difference in society and people need to know they are playing a role in causing that difference.

I appreciative your time-I know when I volunteer I consider these words valuable. This is because the leader has recognized that I took the time out of my busy schedule to volunteer. It shows my time and talents matter.

What do you think-This shows volunteers their ideas and thoughts matter. These words allow problems to be solved and the organization to become better.

Questions: What other essential words should a leader speak to their volunteers? Have you spoken these words to your volunteers or have you had these words spoken to you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I just had this discussion with another ministry Leader this past week. I always encourage others by letting them know how valuable they are to making the entire team run. Without one part of the equation all things begin to fall and break down if we are not all on the same page. So having that individual know their importance to the team speaks volumes.

    • Your a great leader Lincoln, Keep encouraging the people around you. Your doing a great job.

  • floyd

    I believe the very same concepts could, or should, be used with even compensated people. Isn’t that how we’re all wired?

  • Dan, great post! As I volunteer at a local church, it means so much to hear “Thank you Brian. What you did mattered in the lives of people today.” It is amazing the power those simple words have.

    • I’m also a volunteer leader and have been for several years, I totally relate with you about hearing those words.

  • This is a great post with excellent insight, Dan. It goes back to our discussion about leadership vs. influence. CEOs make good bosses and have adequate leadership skills to lead companies and produce great products, but to inspire others to do things voluntarily takes a completely different mindset and genuine thoughtfulness as a leader/influencer.

    • Yes it does. I think it would be beneficial for a leader to use these words with anyone they lead(paid or unpaid). Thank you for sharing.

  • Nice job, Dan. My favorite is “Thank You.” Everyone needs to feel appreciated and a simple “thank you” (verbally, in writing, or through gifts) can really make a difference.

    • It totally can. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Brian K Wright

    Dan, I love this post! I often tell people that I believe in them because so few people truly believe in themselves. Thanks for reminding and reaffirming these important ideas.

    • Showing people you believe in them can allow them to move to the next level. I know I have had people in my life who believed in me and it has allowed me to accoplish some great things.