The key to any meaningful long lasting relationship is creating a connection with someone else. Volunteer engagement with an organization is no different than any other relationship. The focus of the relationship tends to be between the volunteer and the governing entity. Volunteer Managers develop plans to develop and grow enthusiasm, communication, and loyalty with volunteers but there is another relationship that needs attention.
Volunteers spend most of their time with other volunteers and not with the Volunteer Manager. The volunteer experience is mainly built around their experience with other volunteers. Encouraging volunteers in downtime is a great way to establish relationships between people that can result in a stronger connection to the organization.
Volunteers are the most diverse group of people. In hiring a team, organizations depend highly on interviews to find the best “fit” for the group. It is hard to do that with a volunteer based group. How can you foster a connection with people that have different backgrounds, different ages, and different personalities?
The best answer to the question is to encourage structured conversation. Make it a game for them and the groups that get the right answer will win a prize. My favorite game was to ask the volunteers to determine the one thing they have in common with the other people in their group.
What creative ways have you encouraged volunteers to engage with each other?