If you have ever worked at a ministry that can’t make payroll, you know the disastrous effect this has on employee morale. One week without compensation and employees start complaining. Their work becomes sluggish and negativity rules your workspace.
Without a paycheck, employees feel unappreciated and unmotivated.
This is exactly how volunteers feel when no one appreciates our time.
For the past ten years, ever since I became a stay-at-home mom, I’ve volunteered dozens of hours each week. Lately, I’ve been volunteering about 30 hours a week, sometimes more that that when a project needs to get done.
I wish I could say that I love volunteering, that I’m so happy to give up my time for worthy causes, that my best reward is seeing my kids’ school grow and my church share Jesus with the world.
Instead I feel burnt out.
Most volunteers are burnt out, especially those who are taking care of little kids in the hours they are not volunteering. These moms are so busy taking care of other people, they don’t care for themselves. And the result of that is ugly…exhausted, lonely, bitter volunteers. Without appreciation, morale plummets. Many of us quit.
Yes, we want the ministry to be a success. No, we don’t want to get paid.
But do you know what we desperately need?
Compliments. Sincere appreciation.
If a volunteer helps you get your job done, give them a compliment today. Look them in the eye and say, “You always show up on time. You are very dedicated. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
You can thank them, too, but thank yous are cheap. A few sincere words about what a volunteer is doing right is like writing her a paycheck. I don’t care who your volunteers are, they need some compensation for their work or they will stop doing it well.
How do I know this?
Last week I worked hard on two volunteer projects. Both needed lots of my time so everything else suffered. I had to drag my kids to meetings. Our family ate fast food because I didn’t have the bandwidth to cook. At night I was exhausted and so not in the mood to answer emails or finish the hours of monotonous work.
At the end of the week, one sweet friend looked me in the eye and said, “You are doing a good job with this. I really appreciate you tackling this project.”
Her sincere words worked wonders for my exhausted spirit. The nagging feeling that my time wasn’t important instantly disappeared. Like every other human in the world, I needed to be appreciated in a genuine way.
I share this story with some embarrassment, but with the hope it will inspire you to compliment a volunteer. It won’t cost you anything, it won’t take much of your time, but your sincere words will put her on top of the world.
From there, she’ll better be able to see why she’s doing this work in the first place.