Another article covering the management of volunteers

back for more knowledge

Balancing volunteer needs

Blog PostNew!

Written by John Berry on 25th March 2024.0

3 min read

Volunteers joel-muniz-qvzjG2pF4bE-unsplashThe idea that volunteers can experience a different life from that in employment is obvious. One experience may compliment the other, then satisfying otherwise partially satisfied needs. One experience may supplement, enhancing the skills used, together satisfying more needs, or satisfying the same needs more deeply.

I've given examples of needs in other articles - one on managing volunteers, the other on motivating volunteers.

A complete person

Either way, it’s helpful to consider the employee/volunteer as a complete person. Each environment in which they are active goes some way, along with their other activities with hobbies, families, and friends, to satisfy all their needs. Arguably, absence of one or other part weakens the person and creates a tension. That tension may then cause a striving for needs to be satisfied.

It's therefore for the manager of volunteers to know the volunteer and understand their needs. It’s a simple management activity to ensure that each volunteer has tailored activities and responsibilities such that their needs are enhanced and opportunity for motivation is not wasted. As we note elsewhere, supplementing, and complementing needs bears on recruitment, management, and retention of volunteers.

Balancing volunteer needs

Developing the ideas of supplementing and complementing, volunteering might balance the necessity of taking a job that is unpleasant and unsatisfying but that pays well. The job allows the person as employee to feed their family and have a good existence, while their needs for relationships and growth (for example) are satisfied by their volunteering.

A good example of this supplement/complement theory in action is the lead volunteer in a Scout district (known in the past as a District Commissioner). He is all-powerful and respected in his volunteering life by some 200 volunteers, while at work he is a junior operative. With The Scouts, he is out every night and weekend, and meets these volunteers regularly. He guides the district to achieve great accolades.

At work his life is substantially constrained within a tight job description and objectives. Uniting work and volunteering, it’s easy for him to prove to himself that he is a worthy person. In this case he supplements his employment with volunteering, satisfying a vast array of needs. Arguably, he would otherwise be unsatisfied with life.

There’s also the notion that the Scout lead volunteer in the example gets training in management and other skills not considered important by his employer.

In times of change

Consider too, when people retire. If their needs were satisfied by their rounded life of work, family, hobbies, and volunteering, there is going to be a big gap when they retire from work. Often, they will grow one or other centre of activity - like family - to regain balance. It's then that many volunteering organisations gain their best members.

Of course, things change. The Scout lead volunteer, for example, may change jobs. If his new job gave him a say in decisions about the organisation, this may change how he feels about his volunteering. Things are dynamic when dealing with people.

Managers of volunteers must know their volunteer, and understand and strive to meet their needs.