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4 min read

8 Tips for Tackling Unpopular Tasks

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Leaders often find themselves faced with the challenge of motivating volunteers to take on unpopular tasks. As you know, every task plays a crucial role in the success of a social impact organization, but some just are not as glamorous or appealing as others. Whether it's sorting through donations, cleaning up after an event, or handling administrative duties, how can leaders of volunteers inspire their teams to tackle these less attractive responsibilities with enthusiasm?

✔️ Highlight the impact.

One effective way to motivate volunteers is by emphasizing the impact of their work. Clearly communicate how even seemingly mundane tasks contribute directly to the organization's mission. For instance, sorting through donated items may help provide resources for those in need, or cleaning up after an event keeps the venue management happy. Drawing a direct line between these tasks and the broader mission can instill a sense of purpose and significance.

✔️ Double-down on recognition and appreciation.

Here I am, harping on appreciation again! Recognizing volunteers for their efforts, especially when handling unpopular tasks, is essential. Make a point of showing that you’ve seen and appreciated their efforts. Be specific in your praise. If they’re open to it, publicly acknowledge their hard work through newsletters, social media, or during team meetings. Everyone likes to feel valued, and expressing gratitude for their contributions, fosters a positive volunteer culture.

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✔️ Rotate responsibilities.

Prevent resentment and possible volunteer burnout by implementing a rotation system for less appealing tasks. This ensures that no individual or group is consistently burdened with undesirable duties. By distributing responsibilities fairly, volunteers are more likely to stay engaged and committed to the cause.

✔️ Pair unpopular tasks with popular ones.

I saw this work really well at an animal shelter, where there were tons of volunteers who wanted to walk the dogs or play with the cats, but staff were left to clean kennels or litter boxes. I suggested a change in procedures. The original procedure was the volunteer came in, took the dog for a walk (for example), then left or took a second dog out. Now, the volunteer comes in, cleans one kennel, takes the dog for its walk, provides the dog with fresh water, then leaves. Or does the same routine with a second dog. Because each volunteer only cleans one or two kennels, and it’s tied to the “fun” task of walking the dog, it doesn’t seem onerous. There was a bit of complaining when it was first initiated, but now it’s just how things are done, and no one minds.

✔️ Offer skills training.

Sometimes, volunteers may find certain tasks unappealing simply because they lack the necessary skills or knowledge. Offering training sessions to develop these skills can turn unpopular tasks into an opportunity for personal and professional growth. This approach not only benefits the organization but also enhances the volunteers' skill set. And we all know how that improves retention!

✔️ Make unpopular tasks a group event.

When volunteers are put into a group, they are more willing to take on less glamorous tasks. It’s the whole “many hands make light work” adage in action. Friendly conversation, networking, and building relationships with other people who share similar values, can make even unpleasant tasks go faster and seem less disagreeable.

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✔️ Share success stories.

Share success stories related to less appealing tasks. I heard a story about a person helping to clean up a park after a music concert. Pushed in under a bush was a valuable electric guitar. No one knows how it got there, but the musician it belonged to was so thrilled to have it back that he provided the volunteer with signed copies of all the band’s albums and free tickets to any of their concerts in that city. Highlighting instances where volunteers made a significant difference through their efforts not only showcases the impact of their work, but also serves as inspiration for others to step up when faced with similar tasks.

✔️ Gamify the experience.

Turn less appealing tasks into a fun and engaging experience by incorporating gamification elements. Create friendly competitions, set achievable goals, and offer small incentives for reaching milestones. Adding an element of playfulness can transform how volunteers see the task and make it more enjoyable.

Motivating volunteers to tackle unpopular tasks can be a challenging process. It involves a combination of effective communication, recognition, and creating a positive environment. By highlighting the significance of their efforts, acknowledging their contributions, pairing less desirable tasks with more engaging ones, and infusing enjoyment into less appealing tasks, volunteer leaders can motivate volunteers even when tackling less glamorous responsibilities. Remember, every task, no matter how small, contributes to the greater good and the success of the organization as a whole. Good luck, and have fun!

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