What if your Employees Were Volunteers?

I recently assumed a leadership position in a faith-based organization that is rebuilding after a terrible splintering of the congregation. I have volunteered over the years at numerous non-profits and have observed that they are more volatile than for-profit organizations because of the large volunteer population. People are more inclined to express themselves when they are not dependent on a position for their livelihood. My question is: What would happen to your business if the employees were all volunteers? Would they remain unwavering in their commitment to the mission or would they quietly withdraw from the organization.  Or, would they aggressively confront the leadership on the direction the mission is taking?

Successful management of volunteers requires clearly-defined, shared values, a clear mission, and a steady stream of appreciation and recognition. Volunteer organizations need goals that are clearly centered on serving the community they serve. Successful leaders of volunteer organizations focus on engaging their volunteers and developing them to fit the mission. In short, non-profit organizations are very aware that they can accomplish little without their volunteers. Likewise when volunteer organizations experience setbacks, it is apparent that reaching out to volunteers to reestablish the vision and mission is a first step on the way to recovery.

For-profit leaders can learn much from their non-profit counterparts. Maintaining excellence in a commercial organization’s employee base requires the same focus on engagement and mission. Failure to maintain this focus can result in turnover of top performers and employee apathy (on-the-job retirement.) My suggestion is that managers make a tune up of vision and mission an annual event and discussion and reinforcement of these goals with employees a daily occurrence. 

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2 thoughts on “What if your Employees Were Volunteers?

  1. Instructive comparison between non-profit and for-profit organizational leadership. Well-written! Thank you!

  2. A very good point and comparison. I think it comes down to leadership. Non-profit organizations require true leaders with good communication skills to motivate their workforce to strive for the organization’s goals. These are traits not always present in hierarchal organizations where leaders many times rely too much on legimate or positional power to run their businesses.

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