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10 Ways to Motivate Volunteers

Volunteering has become a popular solution for people looking to build a better community or help those who need assistance. Many organizations view volunteers as their lifeblood, which is why it’s essential that you constantly motivate them and make them feel a part of a close community. Our guest blogger, Prasha Sarwate Dutra, shares ten smart ways to start motivating volunteers today.

By: Prasha Sarwate Dutra

1.  Align - It’s important that you align your volunteers to your mission.

Follow this script tips:

  1. Start by asking them why they want to join the team.
  2. Introduce your project’s main mission, in simple terms.
  3. Use your personal story of starting your project and share personal anecdotes that brought you to this point.
  4. Avoid any type of project or industry-specific jargon.
  5. If they can help you, you should remember that you need to help them too. So start or end every call by asking “ How can I help you today?”.

2. Build Trust - Humanizing your conversations and getting to know one another helps build trust. Remember this is a long term process and you need to be invested in creating trust.

3. Be Authentic - In all your transactions, stay true to who you are. If you try to bring a fake self to a volunteer conversation, chances are the person won’t be 100% invested in your mission. Some ways to do this are:

  1. Share 2-3 of your weaknesses.
  2. Share your long term vision for the project, no matter how crazy it may sound.
  3. Let them know the story of your own hardships, as you have built the project.

4. Be Specific - Be very specific in your ask of what you’d like the volunteer to do and what success looks like in their particular role.

  1. Start with simply deciding how often you will meet with them.
  2. Clearly, state the weekly commitments (in hours) on your volunteer posting.
  3. Be clear about the urgency of tasks or certain deadlines.

5. Continuous Feedback - Feedback should include the extent of their impact on the success of your project. It should be timely and always filled with encouragement. Remember, they are your volunteers are not your employees, so it’s your duty to encourage them and work with them.

6.  Promote - It’s important to promote them widely as your teammate. Show them that they matter and are welcomed. Whatever it takes, promoting them and their work is your responsibility and you should be prompt and repetitive in doing this.

7.  Performance Settings - Include them in important goal settings, especially when it is in their area of work. Ask them what’s possible, what are their thoughts and what they think is a reasonable goal. Help them dream bigger and collaborate in strategic planning. This does 2 things:

  1. Creates ownership of goals &
  2. Instills a team spirit.

8.  Community - Make space for internal collaboration within your volunteer team. Create opportunities for people to mingle and build a community. Encourage teamwork on projects while assigning tasks. This leads to a strong sense of community for the volunteers and helps them feel supported. Introduce them to your wider network and encourage them to expand their network too.

9.  Agree to Disagree - Just like any good relationship, agree to disagree. No breakthroughs happen where people are always in agreement. So ensure that you have rich discussions and allow everyone’s diverse opinions to be openly discussed. Don’t dismiss people for disagreeing, but work with them to understand their point of view.

While you are at it, make sure you allow them to be right, when they are right! This is hard for founders, because of their proximity to their project/company but this is utmost important if you want people to serve a common mission.Be patient and flexible with everyone that supports your cause.

10. Celebrate - Make it a point to share progress made on the set goals, allow for recalibration as needed and don’t forget to celebrate. When you celebrate other people it makes them feel valued! Send them a letter, a gift card or a book to show your appreciation. Remember people don’t get motivated by money, as much as they get motivated by mission and community. Continue to show them how they are contributing.


Today's blog post was provided by Prasha Sarwate Dutra from Her Stem Story, a mission-driven podcast aimed to increase access and the number of women's voices in STEM.

Born and raised in India, Prasha completed two engineering degrees and later landed a leadership position in manufacturing in Rhode Island, USA. She believes that STEM Needs Women, Women Need STEM and to support that she created a weekly podcast, Her STEM Story.

Through one on one interviews with people from around the world, her mission is to close the voice gap in STEM fields. In these conversations, Prasha focuses on pivots, struggles, education, careers, and accomplishments. Her dream is to create a diverse and inclusive world for all minorities in STEM fields.

Prasha is passionate about mentoring women in STEM, building supportive communities. She loves to speak at events to inspire women and motivate organizations to support diversity and inclusion efforts.

Work with Prasha by emailing her at herstemstory@gmail.com.

Follow her on Linkedin @prashasarwate and Twitter @prasha88.


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