We’ve all been there: we have a volunteer training scheduled. We arrive early. Set up the room. Straighten the chairs. Run over our notes one more time.
And then…we wait.
And wait. And wait a little more. And finally, with a deflated spirit and a renewed sense of crushing self-doubt, we flick off the lights and head to our car because no one showed up.
Whether you’re offering an on-boarding orientation for potential new volunteers or “requiring” an ongoing training for existing volunteers, eventually the room is going to be much emptier than you’d planned. But why? Why don’t volunteers show up for volunteer meetings? I think there are at least five reasons:
1. They don’t know about it. How do you communicate new volunteer orientation? Do non-volunteers know it’s for them? Do they know that showing up doesn’t obligate them to serve? Have they received a personal invitation? Do they even believe the church has a place for them? [Related post: The Problem with a Well-Oiled Machine]
2. They forgot about it. We’re all busy. Well-meaning people sign up for well-advertised events, but the meeting time comes around and they don’t. The chances are good that they’re not trying to ditch you, they just forgot to write it down. Are you sending friendly reminders a couple of days before? [Related post: What’s Your Preferred Communication Gateway?]
3. They don’t care about it. A co-worker once asked me, “How can it be a mandatory meeting if I refuse to go?” He was joking, but many of your people won’t be. You can beg, plead, cajole, and pound the table, but until you give them a real reason to show up, they probably won’t. In Disney U, Doug Lipp says “Training needs to instill a spirit, a feeling, an emotional connection.”
4. You don’t care about it. I get it: you lead these on-boarding trainings every month, and you’ve done it for years. You could do it in your sleep. But remember that this is someone’s first training. You need to go in with all of the enthusiasm / excitement / prayer that you did for meeting number one. [Related post: Why Does it Matter?]
5. They’ve heard it all before. If you have nothing vital to communicate, don’t hold the meeting. Confession: I can be the chief of sinners in this regard. Honor your people’s time by making their time worth it. They’re trusting you by showing up, and if you don’t validate that trust, they won’t show up the next time.