Motivation Between Staff and Volunteers

Who is more motivated toward the nonprofit’s mission—paid staff or volunteers? I see them both as having different yet equal motivations.

Salaries are one of the highest expenses in nonprofits and they do not survive without volunteers. While vital to keeping labor costs down, nonprofits should not be all volunteers. There needs to be paid staff for stability and who bring a different motivation to nonprofits.

There is no right answer to what this mix of staff and volunteers should be (cost is a factor, of course). I think the best way to manage the two groups is to have a clear separation of job duties. This is true for any business, and it helps everyone to know their role and the roles of others. Just keep the job duties simple.

The most important part of managing staff and volunteers is paying attention to the dynamics of what motivates each group. To staff, it is a paying job (although little pay). To a volunteer and sometimes staff, it is a desire to help and be involved.

I have seen executive directors have weekly staff meetings, but never meet any of the volunteers. I’ve listened to volunteers say how they never met the executive director or the people working in the nonprofit.

It is up to the executive director and volunteer coordinator to make sure staff and volunteers know about each other. And not only through a newsletter. It could be just a meet-and-greet that takes a few minutes. The more people who feel a part of an organization, the more they are motivated to do their best.

Staff and volunteers may bring different talents and motivations, but they are equally important to the success of any nonprofit.

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