Have you ever considered the value of voluntary work?
A lot of events and arrangements depend on voluntary work, especially in Scandinavian countries where the cost of labour is extremely expensive. These events can simply not be a reality without the work power of volunteers that put in hard work to keep the wheels running.
What defines the concept of voluntary work is that there is an employer that often caries the title of “Project Manager”. The Project Manager is not really an employer since the employees (volunteers) is not really employees and do not have any legal obligation in connected to the job being carried out.
I have been involved in voluntary work up to several times and have experienced successful and less successful projects. I have tried to evaluate on what made the difference between a successful and less successful event and I will try to highlight some of the factors that any project manager working with volunteers should have in mind.
Let’s make it clear that people do not do voluntary work just because they do not have anything better to do. People do voluntary work with the expectation of being enriched in some way. This expectation of enrichment is the project managers’ greatest job to discover and then fulfil.
Some of the success factors that have made a good experience as a volunteer have been the feeling of team spirit. When I was volunteering for Scandinavia’s larges event for young entrepreneurs Emax Nordic , all the volunteers had a whole extra day before the event for team building games and socialising. It was very obvious that the management team had clear goals of making us as volunteers perform as a team and by that perform our absolute optimum. We all know that being a part of a group and the feeling of belonging, makes us confortable and that was what the Emax team successfully succeeded in making the volunteers feel.
Another important factor that makes voluntary work interesting is the potential of gaining relevant work experience. Some project managers believe that voluntary work should exist of easy or maybe even brain dead tasks. However this might not be the optimum way to attract voluntary staff. Volunteers are for the most people involved in many different challenges on many different levels. This also means that these people are likely to be well educated and have so much energy that they are willing to share it with others. Therefore do not underestimate the quality of your voluntary staff and challenge them with difficult tasks that take effort to complete.
One last factor that I would like to highlight is the power of appreciation. I have for the past two years been living at a sports academy for one of Denmark’s greatest sports teams and have daily been surrounded by professional athletes that are the best in their league. A part of the package is food served every evening. To keep the academy at float, a team of volunteers is working every week to serve food for the athletes. They are doing a great job and the whole concept of the sports academy would not be possible without them, therefore is it also important that they feel appreciated. Often it does not take much to make people feel appreciated and a little comment and praise is often all it takes.
To sum up: It takes team spirit, challenge, and appreciation to make voluntary work successful. Try to have in mind how you can contribute to make volunteers have a good experience and consider what difference you could make joining as a volunteer for any kind of event. One thing is sure; we all need to be better at showing our appreciation for volunteers that work hard for giving us all a great experience.
Remember without volunteers a lot of things we take for granted would simply not be possible.