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How to manage volunteers? Look at the Games Makers

This is an article that I posted on Lib Dem Voice on Tuesday. It attracted quite a few comments, which you can read here. I think the lessons can be applied to any organisation that relies on volunteers.

I have just returned to my duties at Lib Dem Voice after spending an extraordinary two weeks as a volunteer Games Maker at the Paralympics. My final event was the Athletes Parade today when we were thanked over and over again by Coe, Cameron, and Johnson, and by athletes and members of the public.  I have never felt so appreciated in my life!

So how did LOCOG persuade me and 70,000 other people to travel to London from all over the country on six separate occasions for training and collecting uniforms, then to stay for anything between eight and thirty days with friends, in hotels or at campsites in London, all the time working exhaustingly long days (in my case starting work at 5.45am), and all at our own expense?

The answers to those questions could be very useful to the Liberal Democrats. Because this was volunteer management at its very best, and we as a party need to get much better at enthusing and working with our own volunteers, whether they are candidates, activists, deliverers or donors.

So here are some of the techniques that were used by the managers of the volunteer Games Makers:

  • We were told frequently how essential we were to the success of the Games, but at the same time made to feel that we were privileged to have been selected.
  • We were given good background information on the Games, so that we felt we were an integral part of the organisation.
  • The vision for the Games was communicated effectively;  the key messages of inspiring a generation, being inclusive and ensuring sustainability were promoted and demonstrated at every opportunity.
  • We were kept regularly informed and updated by friendly emails.
  • We were thanked at every opportunity – even given chocolate.
  • We were given high quality training, some generic and some specific to our roles.
  • We were challenged with difficult tasks in a dynamic environment and encouraged to use our initiative.
  • We were supplied with good quality tools for the job: excellent trainers with a uniform that worked well and even included a watch and a water bottle.
  • When on duty we were rewarded with token goodies, such as exclusive badges.
  • We were invited to exciting events such as the dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony.
  • We had fun and we met lots of like-minded people.
  • No-one ever asked us for money.

Can the Liberal Democrats learn anything from that?

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