Strategies for Volunteer Empowerment

Meggan Franks  |  8/18/2021 10:28:23 PM

It has long been known that volunteer empowerment and shared authority are critical to increasing volunteer involvement; however, most volunteer management models that professionals use encourage a formal approach to managing volunteers. Furthermore, volunteers are often left will little power in the volunteer-manager relationship, even though they often look at their volunteering as a form of leisure and want more control over their volunteer experience.

Empowerment is defined as an individual feeling a sense of control over their work and having the necessary abilities, knowledge, and skills to perform a specific task. Some of the foundational literature on volunteer development describes how providing a volunteer with increased authority in decision making, and access to critical information are vital to increasing volunteer involvement.

Current research on volunteer empowerment emphasizes that an empowered volunteer often becomes more involved in the organization and provides a greater impact. Some empowerment strategies emphasized in the research include:

  • Collaborative relationships - developing a cooperative relationship with agents and other 4-H volunteers.
  • Informal networks - having an opportunity to connect with others and share ideas.
  • Role flexibility and autonomy – the ability to make their own decisions.
  • Reciprocity – developing relationships with the program and agents/4-H professionals for mutual benefit.
  • Essential organizational identity – feeling like they are a critical component of the organization.

Steps to creating a volunteer program that empowers volunteers

  1. Share goals and direction – involve volunteers in planning and in decisions that impact them and their programs.
  2. Develop systems for two-way communication and feedback – provide feedback to your volunteers frequently and allow your volunteers to do the same.
  3. Create informal opportunities for volunteers to connect – allow time for your volunteers to meet and interact with other volunteers to share ideas and talk about topics that impact their programs or projects.
  4. Give volunteers an identity within your organization – clearly defined the roles of your volunteers and give them titles. Additionally, involving volunteers in decision-making processes will also help them establish an identity within the organization.

Download Strategies for Volunteer Empowerment

Contact Meggan Franks, Louisiana 4-H Volunteer, and Leadership Specialist.

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