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Exceed expectations when onboarding your volunteer leaders

exceed expectations

Here are some tips on how to put your best foot forward with your volunteer leaders and give them what they need to lead so you have what you need to manage.

1. Understand the role, personality, and communication style of each leader.
Do your volunteer leaders have a clear understanding of what their role is within the organization and what your role is as staff? Creating a decision matrix, leadership manual and onboarding your volunteers at the beginning of the association year starts you off on a good foot for working successfully together.

When new volunteers come on board, ask them how they want to be communicated with and then actually utilize that as often as possible. Do they have an assistant that they want looped in on certain requests (especially scheduling)? Is a text or a phone call a better alternative to email or is email the only way to go?

Whichever way you communicate, get to know their style and personality. Are they a nothing but business, straightforward communicator or do they like to engage in conversation prior to jumping in to the subject matter? Do they want a high-level response, or do they need a little more “meat”?

Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively to each leader in their “style” and preferred method will help to create a strong relationship and ultimately make the work easier for both you and the volunteer. There is, of course, a learning curve to this but the more you can figure your volunteers out, the easier exceeding their expectations become.

2. Be proactive.
Can you anticipate questions before you receive them? If so, answer them before they have to be asked. As an example, I like to annotate my check and credit card expense details for one of my clients so that they have an understanding of what each expense is for. It doesn’t take much time at all and it eliminates many questions that could come up.

Are there ways to streamline operations or do things in an easier way for both you and the volunteer? Create a well thought out proposal and present it – the worst that can happen is they don’t adopt it but, in most cases they are excited to see that you’re thinking about how to better the organization and agree to suggestions. As an example, one organization who holds annual elections wanted to send multiple email reminders. Staff are always aiming to streamline communications and not overwhelm in boxes. We suggested a schedule with rationale and proposed setting up a link on the member’s only part of the website so people didn’t have to look for the link in an email. The Nominations Committee chair was thrilled and appreciated the pro-active thinking.

3. Manage expectations and over deliver.
While we’re talking about exceeding expectations, some do need to be managed. During your onboarding process, talk about response time for emails and phone calls. Strive to respond within 24 hours of receiving the communication and, if you can get to it the same day, all the better!

Ensure that your volunteers have a clear understanding of turnaround time for various projects – not everything can be done same day. If you can anticipate that a project is going to take you awhile, be up front about it and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Then, when possible, over deliver. If you can get something done faster, they’ll be thrilled.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do.
This not only builds a strong, trusting relationship but it ensures the association will run as smoothly as possible.

5. Set them up for success.
What can you do to make your volunteers look good? Provide talking points ahead of meetings, annotate financials, talk ahead of time to ensure they have everything they need to understand what they’re talking about when they lead a board or committee meeting. When your volunteers look good, it’s a win for them and for you.

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How cheese curds and trivia can shake up a board dinner and bring out the best


Board at dinner 10-26-15

How many Board dinners do we have annually? Sometimes it feels like a weekly event in the world of association management. Annually, we bring client boards to Madison, Wisconsin – their “HQ.” This week was no exception – except we tried something a little different and had a blast!

Maximizing time as we always do, we kicked off the first night with a formal dinner in a private dining room with white linens and an LCD projector so we could set the stage for the strategy meeting that would ensue. Appetizers, good wine, salad, tenderloin or fresh fish, and fancy desserts = $1,000 for a party of 10. Then back to the hotel before 10 p.m. Check. Check.

A great meeting of strategy and lots of business were on the agenda for the following day. Then came the “risky” idea to go to a local tavern for bar food and trivia — one that does not take reservations (thus the risky part for a party of 12). The chalkboard filled with two dozen local brews was a hit. The Wisconsin deep fried cheese curds were a must. The casual atmosphere and seating provided a much lighter feel and even the local fare and "best burger in town" were a great hit. Total for a party of 12: $400.

We topped off thte evening with trivia night. Three teams of four out of 20 total competing. One lasted through the end and a number of us switched over to their table as the winning team grew! (I think we've all heard, people want to be on the winning team!)

"There are tons of books out there on the topic of diversity and, without trying,
we proved it through a two-hour trivia night with beers and burgers!"

As we laughed and reflected the final morning, we realized that not only did we have a great time, we learned a lot, too. The most diverse team performed the best. Ours had more ethnic, gender and age diversity than any of the other competing teams, which contributed to our success. Go figure. There are tons of books out there on the topic of diversity and, without trying, we proved it through a two-hour trivia night with beers and burgers!

Lastly, we talked about different personalities and styles. Some with confidence may not always be correct. Others we wish had pushed their ideas and opinions harder than they had. As we work together in this association we can see that play out in different ways.

Try something new and you may get something unexpected. Fancy dinners and fine wine are great, but cheese curds and trivia night can be even better!


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