Why Volunteers Don't Show Up

While working on some coaching material for a local leader, I realized that a lot of people are confused as why a volunteer would sign up for something and then not show up.

While working on some coaching material for a local leader, I realized that a lot of people are confused as to why a volunteer would sign up for something and then not show up.  

In my volunteer coordination experience, here are the top five reasons I have found that volunteers don't show up.  (I think a lot of this could be transferred over into the "for profit" world as well.)

  • 5.  They aren’t sure where to go, or when to show up
    • I believe that schedules should be communicated in at least two different formats.  There is so much “static noise” in our lives that it typically takes a couple of tries to get through.  Both schedule reminders need to say the SAME THING.  If you change something, then you need to add an extra "touch."
  • 4.  They are confused about what to do
    • Leaders often forget to clarify “the how.”  There should be a written description for any ongoing volunteer position.  Anytime you can put it in writing, you should do it.  If the description takes up more than half a page bullet-ed, you need to simplify the job.
    • Explain it step by step verbally and allow for questions.  Most of the time a position makes sense to us but it’s not clear to others.

Lack of clarity = lack of job satisfaction.  You can be passionate about a department, but if you never know what you’re supposed to be doing, you will burn out quickly.  Leaders will burn out quicker than others. 

  • 3.  They don’t think that you really need them
    • Remind volunteers that they are important.  If they don’t show up, we miss out on the awesomeness that is them!  
    • Make sure that scheduled volunteers have something to do.  Don’t ask them to serve just so they’ll be there and bump up your numbers.  Have a task for them to do and try your best to make it fit within the pre-determined time slot.
  • 2.  They don’t think that what they are doing is important
    • Vision caste! Never have a position without a purpose. Do not waste people's time by having no real purpose. Tell them why they are doing that task.
    • Inspire them! Volunteers are not obligated to be there… make sure you always remind them and help them to remember why they give their time, energy, money, and life to your cause. Stories and dreams keep volunteers alive. 
  • 1.  They don’t like what they are doing
    • You need to care more about people than filling a hole in your schedule.  If someone seems to not enjoy what they are doing, then ask them about their passions and try and find place them there. 

I currently have a volunteer who loves to bake.  I don't "need" a baker, but I can hear his passion when he speaks about new recipes.  I recently decided to ask him to bake something for a big community wide event.  Baking for others fulfills him and provided a special treat for guests that day. He brought in his goodies with joy and didn't charge a penny.  (And who wouldn't love to walk out the door with a fresh loaf of strawberry bread?)

If you care more about people then how they can fill your need, you will have happy volunteers who work hard stick with you for the long run.

Hope this helps someone else out there.  For more information about the ministry I work for, feel free to check out Mountain West Church

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marguerite Girard August 19, 2012 at 03:54 PM
This is a great article, and needed right now. We absolutely have to have volunteers because of the economy, and your points are valid and well-spoken.


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