Capacity building is the process of strengthening the infrastructure of an agency - planning & evaluation, governance, human resources, fundraising, finances, technology and communication.  The process requires a clear assessment of both internal and external operations - and volunteers are key to both! Volunteers are an incredible resource, offering time, skill and financial resources to address core community needs.  Managing volunteer relationships is one of the most challenging and most rewarding responsibilities of any leader.  Establishing boundaries can ensure a quality long-term relationship.

There are many tools and resources dedicated to volunteer recruitment.  The ability to attract, retain and cultivate volunteers is an essential element in building public investment in the success of an agency.  Equally challenging is learning when to say good bye to individuals who have transitioned from asset to liability during the course of their involvement. Just like the life-cycle of an organization, volunteers often have a life-cycle. During different seasons we are naturally able to offer different benefits to the groups we support, as agency needs change so do our roles. Have you ever considered the signs that indicate a relationship may be overdue for evaluation? Here are a few questions for your reflection. 

1. Does the individual attract or repel interested people to the work that you do? 

2. Are the contributions offered (time, skill, resources) greater than the problems and obstacles that are created by their presence? 

3. What language does the volunteer use when speaking about the work? Do their words build up or tear down the progress that is being made? 

4. Have terms of service been adjusted, changed and avoided to address a lack of staggered terms or effective rotation? 

5. Would you benefit from 10 additional volunteers just like the one you are reflecting on?  

While organizational gratitude and volunteer engagement are key for long-term success, so is having the right team.  Individuals do not have to agree or share every approach to be a benefit to the agencies they serve. Yet, a good rule of thumb asks you to consider the time that someone invests and the legacy they leave as a result of their service.  A fluid team means that an agency pays careful attention to the resources it has and leverages them for the greatest organizational impact.  Part of that responsibility rests in being able to engage volunteers in meaningful ways.  Part of that responsibility rests in the ability to redirect volunteers who no longer contribute  to the overall mission & vision of the organization.  To every person their is a season - and it holds true for volunteers, staff members, consultants and leaders alike. Building capacity includes building people to affect change. 

AuthorAimee Laramore