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The 5-Minute Mini – Coaching Colleagues

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“How can I help my colleagues feel more comfortable providing feedback to volunteers?”

“While program staff request volunteer support, they rarely follow the procedures we’ve established to make it more efficient.”

“Most of the staff who work directly with volunteers are new and just don’t understand how important volunteers are to our mission.”

In recent months, we've consistently heard statements like these on a weekly basis. With staff turnover at a high, volunteer engagement professionals face challenges beyond simply recruiting volunteers. Ensuring volunteers are well-prepared for success requires staff members who possess both knowledge and comfort in offering essential support.

Training is vital to impactful volunteer engagement – and training staff in effective volunteer engagement practices is just as vital as training volunteers. When most people consider training staff, they envision a webinar or workshop lasting 1-2 hours. While those sessions can be helpful, volunteer engagement professionals are increasingly looking for ways to meet their colleagues where they are. An effective approach involves embracing the role of the volunteer professional as a coach, offering tips, and enthusiastically supporting your colleagues.

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The first step to coaching is to tune in to the needs of your colleagues. As you make the rounds and observe staff interacting with volunteers, what teachable moments do you encounter? Among newer staff, moments such as volunteer onboarding, providing more effective volunteer feedback, or recognizing volunteers on a more personal level are all common. To address these teachable moments, I suggest you prepare what I call the 5-Minute Mini. A 5-Minute Mini is a brief coaching session, which you have prepared and can pull out of your proverbial back pocket when the need arises. A 5-Minute Mini consists of these three topics:

  1. One tip (e.g., “Here are three important items to include when onboarding a volunteer” or “When providing feedback, share observations of how the volunteer’s behavior diverges from expectations set out in training and then discuss how the volunteer can realign the effort with expectations.”)
  2. Request for ideas on future actions (e.g., “What might you do differently next time?”)
  3. Follow up (e.g., Within the next day or two, share some resources via email or in person and thank the staff person for having the conversation)

Strive to develop several 5-Minute Minis, outlining and rehearsing them informally. Not only does writing them out and practicing help you become more comfortable and ready to use them when the moment is right, but doing so can also help you develop and deliver coaching on other topics (even unrehearsed!). And the more useful information you provide, the more value you will bring to your colleagues in engaging volunteers and, ultimately, to the mission of your organization.

For more creative and effective ways to train colleagues, register for Better Impact’s upcoming webinar, Equipping Staff for Success: Training Colleagues to Engage Volunteers on June 19.

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