The Importance of Welcoming Volunteers

Nicky Dodd, Regional Development Officer for South Central, tells us about how important it is to make your volunteers feel important and valued.

Volunteers make the world go round. Without them society simply wouldn’t function and vital services that the Government, Councils or the NHS can’t afford to provide just wouldn’t happen.

The same can be said within Lib Dem local parties. Volunteers are critical to your success at the ballot box.

Volunteering can come in all shapes and sizes, from going out door-knocking three times a week with a candidate, supplying sandwiches and cake for an action day or delivering leaflets in a street once a month. Whatever it is, and no matter how big or small the action is, remember to give them a very warm welcome.

When I was a Campaign Organiser for a local party, John came in to the office once a week to help. Knowing that John was coming in was a big weight off my mind, and he would happily sit and enter data, stuff envelopes or operate the RISO. I would welcome him with a coffee, a biscuit or two, and we would chat about our week. I wanted John to feel as welcome as possible to let him know how much I valued his time.

I asked John how he felt when he came into the office during that time; “I did enjoy those mornings and you were a pleasure to work with. I felt that by volunteering on a regular basis and having something useful to do every week, I was doing something positive and constructive. Happy days!”

When I asked how he found the work I asked him to do, John replied; “You don’t have to be a whizz kid with computers to volunteer – just a basic knowledge is sufficient. I’m not particularly fast on the keyboard – one finger at a time! But it all helps.”

John gave up his time and came back week after week because he knew he would receive a warm welcome.

Why should you make a volunteer feel welcome?

As we can see above, John kept coming back because he felt welcome. If I’d ignored him and not offered him a drink, the chances are he would’ve stopped coming in.

If a volunteer feels unwelcome, rejected or snubbed, the chances are they won’t offer their time again, no matter how many times you ask them. You could be left with a large pile of envelopes that need stuffing, 4,000 leaflets to deliver or 150 surveys to enter onto Connect all by yourself.

How to make volunteers feel welcome

Say hello, offer a big smile, ask how they are and take an interest in their reply. If it’s volunteering indoors, offer them a cuppa; if it’s outside offer them a cuppa at the end of the session. Remember to say THANK YOU when they have finished what they are doing, remind them how much they have helped you. Make sure the volunteer feels part of a team, and know how much you appreciate them giving up their time.

If it’s a big group event such as an action day, try to offer a nice lunch, or at the very least decent refreshments. Invite volunteers to local party events individually, not just via a mass email.

If your local party can afford it, have a post-election thank you party and invite all volunteers to it; yes even the people who only deliver their road – that’s one less road you’ve had to deliver!

Remember,  “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” – Sherry Anderson

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