Warning: Change Can Scare Off Your Volunteers

iStock_000008685484XSmallHave you ever announced a change to your volunteers that didn’t go over too well?  Have they ever resisted implementing a new process and you couldn’t quite figure out why?  I’ll let you in on a little secret: The issue probably wasn’t the change itself.  The issue was probably in how the change was rolled out.

Most of your volunteers are ingrained in the current process.  They’ve developed habits and know what to expect each week.  When you announce a change, even one that should make their work easier, you’re creating uncertainty.

How do you go from “We need to change” to actually implementing the changes without scaring off your volunteers?  Here are a few tips:

#1: Get buy-in from your volunteer leaders.

Discuss the upcoming changes with them.  Provide a compelling vision for why the changes are necessary.  Get their feedback and ask how they think their teams will react.

#2: Send an email to all volunteers.

Start by thanking them for serving.  Mention that “we’re always seeking to improve and have a few new things to roll-out soon.”  Cast a compelling vision as to why change is needed and how it will make their work even more effective.  Then give specifics about what’s changing and when.

#3: Discuss the changes at your next pre-service volunteer meeting.

Reiterate the reasons why you’re changing and invite them to ask questions.  Don’t be too rigid about how they implement the changes at first.

#4: Follow-up with your volunteer leaders.

Ask how their teams felt about the changes and how implementing them went that day.  Talk individually with volunteers who had concerns.

Now, I realize that is a lot of work.  It would be nice if you could announce a change and everyone adjusted immediately.  However, that’s not likely to happen.  Even good changes can be disruptive, so you need to give people (especially volunteers) time to see the benefits and emotionally process the new way of doing things.

Remember: You’re working with volunteers who are donating their time.  You have to motivate them with a clear vision and a compelling reason to change.  Even the most faithful volunteer will become discouraged and may quit if you change too much too quickly.  Use wisdom and listen carefully to your volunteer leaders.   They want to support you.  Make  it easier for them to do so by getting their buy-in first and listening to their feedback.

Have you made any big changes with your volunteer program?  If so, how did you communicate and implement those changes? 

Is your church growing? Do you need more volunteers to keep up? My Volunteer Management Assessment & Coaching Program can help! Contact me to get started today.