Establishing a Support Structure

With adequate support for volunteer project leaders, your aim is to help leaders develop their thinking and capacity. Provide clear guidelines, due dates, reminders, and clarification of requirements. More importantly, know your leaders’ strengths, as well as the areas that need more development, so that you can best help them hone their skills to become more effective in their roles.

By working in partnership with program staff, volunteer project leaders are much more likely to achieve their goals. When you foster volunteer project leaders' development as you do for staff, your program is more likely to retain a strong and growing body of committed, qualified project leaders.

Decide if you want to support project leaders formally or informally:

  • Formal support can include regularly scheduled meetings, task-specific training, or volunteer committees.
  • Informal support occurs as the need arises, rather than at scheduled times; it might include calls or e-mails to check in with leaders on project progress.

Also consider providing ongoing opportunities for volunteer leaders to share best practices and learn from each other, with casual gatherings at a local coffee house or online discussion groups, for example.

Ask each individual volunteer project leader how he or she prefers to be supported. Ask what "support" looks like to them. Is it coffee once a month? A weekly phone check-in? Written e-mail reports? Continue to build relationships with your leaders so that they succeed in their leadership roles and take ownership of their projects.

Let's look more closely at supporting project leaders through coaching, delegating, and recognition...