What is on your Volunteers’ Top Ten List?

imgres-1David Letterman is nearing the end of his run on Late Night.  He’s become famous with his Top Ten List.  Each night he (or a special guest) shares with viewers the Top Ten reasons that explain a particular event or action.  It’s a clever tie into pop culture and has become one of his many trademarks.  So what if Dave wondered the streets near your organization and in true “man on the street” fashion asked your volunteers the top ten reasons they like or dislike you?  What would they say?  So often we think we know what our volunteers would say but do we really?  And does it really matter?  Well of course it does and in today’s marketplace it is critical to your success.

We live in an age where volunteers are becoming more and more discretionary with their time as well as the patience they are willing to give.  And the truth is they DO have a top ten list for you.  And there’s good and bad news to this truth.

The good news?  If their Top Ten List focuses on the reasons why they like you they are coming back and likely telling others.   The bad news? If their Top Ten List focuses on why they don’t then they are simply gone and unfortunately they are telling others that too.  So what can you do? Find out what’s on those lists!  Here are three quick actions you can take today to understand what your volunteers think.

#1 Ask them.
Simple answer right? But are you doing it?  Develop some practice to consistently ask your volunteers what they think about the organization’s operations.  You can’t keep doing what works if you don’t know what it is.  And even more importantly, you can’t stop doing the things that are driving them away if you don’t know what those things are.

#2  Focus on one thing at a time.
While we all believe we can multi-task with the best of them, the truth is we really can’t.  In order to make the most of your efforts it is critical to focus the team.  What does that mean?  They can’t effectively try to improve three elements of their service or processes at the same time. In fact, it can be self-defeating.  Find one area of the organization to focus on. Drill into it, clearly describe it and measure improvement.  Once you master that “one” thing move on to the next item.  This applies to both the good stuff you do every day as well as areas you are trying to fix.

#3  Start with the biggest irritant.
Want to make the biggest impact to your volunteers [or employees for that matter]? Start with the biggest irritant they have.  Hint: You will find out what that thing is if you do #1 on our list.  There are multiple benefits from taking on this goal.  The ideal is to completely remove this barrier between you and your volunteers, but let’s be honest,  your irritant may not be a quick fix. If you are stay focused on this goal and keep everyone informed about your progress they will be endeared to you. Why? They will believe you HEARD them and more importantly, you are ACTING on their feedback.

Now back to Dave. How cool would it be if he talked to your volunteers and they really struggled with finding that negative Top Ten List? It’s possible you know.  In fact, if you will use these principles with your employees too, you’ll be amazed at the way your customer list changes – and for the good.  So let’s get started.  The #10 reason why our volunteers love us is…

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