Be Stingy With Your VHQ
We’ve talked before about the need for a Volunteer Headquarters (VHQ), a place where your servant leaders can grab coffee, store their stuff, and build relationships with one another. We have them at all of our campuses, ranging in size from a glorified broom closet to a large room that actually … well, almost … is big enough for all of our vols to fit.
But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately that deserves some attention: our VHQ isn’t just serving our volunteers. At any given time I can walk into any given VHQ and see people who don’t actually serve. They’re grabbing coffee, snacking on donuts, and chatting it up with friends. And don’t get me started on the middle schoolers, who inexplicably find their way back no matter how many times we drive them out into the country and drop them off in the middle of nowhere. Middle schoolers are like the Old Testament locusts of the VHQ world: they always show up, they always bring friends, and after they leave the only thing standing is the faint aroma of beef stew and body odor.
So this year, I’m leading our Guest Services directors to be unapologetically selfish. I’m asking them to boot out the people who don’t belong. I’m challenging them to lock down their VHQ, no matter the hurt feelings or dirty looks. I want them to be stingy with it.
Now, before I go further and the judging begins in your heart, let me be crystal-clear: I’m being hyperbolic to make a point. Stinginess is not a gospel virtue. We don’t gain anything by hoarding or barricading. There are plenty of times where our volunteer teams will grab a cup of coffee for a non-volunteer who needs a caffeine fix or grab some orange juice for someone experiencing low blood sugar.
But this post is referring to the general usage of VHQ. Here are four reasons I want our campus leaders to be stingy:
1. It allows backstage to be backstage.
A few years ago my wife gave me one of the best gifts ever: a behind-the-scenes tour at the Magic Kingdom. We saw areas that guests normally don’t see. Cast members were still friendly, but they weren’t “on.” Pallets of merchandise were sitting right by our walking path. We saw (gasp) the disembodied costumes of Disney characters. But here’s the thing: backstage is backstage. And just like Disney gives their cast members some time to let down their guard, I want to do the same for my volunteers. I want them to get a quick break from answering questions and being fully present, so that when we ask them to be fully present they have the bandwidth to be fully present.
2. It honors our volunteers.
Related to #1, guarding our VHQ means that we’re showing honor to those who show up early, stick around late, and freely give of their time and talents. I make no apologies that our VHQs are a perk of serving. Sure, mini cinnamon rolls from Costco and bulk-brewed church coffee may not be a first-class perk, but it’s still a perk. Of course we want to show honor to all of our people who show up on the weekends (see the 2,000+ other posts on this blog that talk about that), but this is a simple way to show some love to those who show love.
3. It’s better for our budget.
We tend to run VHQs on a shoestring. There are campuses who pull it off for less than a buck per volunteer per weekend. And when we’re planning the budget for the upcoming year, we base it off of our volunteer numbers, not the forecast of every coffee seeker and middle schooler who manage to find their way to the space. Throwing the doors open wide means that – eventually – our volunteers won’t get even the basics of what we’ve set aside for them.
4. It can ultimately build the team.
Whether you’re talking about a free perks membership with an airline, a club level lounge in a hotel, or an email newsletter from your favorite author, there’s something about being left outside that makes you want to get inside. If we leverage our VHQ access well and explain that it’s designed to serve those who serve others, it might just give us opportunities to talk about why serving is important. And those conversations might just lead to new people stepping up to serve.
So how do you lock ‘er down and keep out the non-volunteers? In our situation, I think we’re going to have to start with a staff presence for a few weeks, explaining the why to those who aren’t serving. We’re going to have kind conversations that show care for non-volunteers while also setting firm boundaries. We’re going to require a volunteer lanyard to get in.
What do you do to keep your volunteer areas reserved for volunteers?