Getting a chance to shine. Some tasks call for an organized personality; some call for a creative one or an outgoing one. Match the job to each person’s strengths.
Being set up to succeed. While a volunteer should be given the space to see a task through however she sees fit, a newbie might not know, for example, that a specific form needs to be submitted to the front office as part of that task. Arm your volunteers with a timeline or a list of must-dos that are pertinent to the job.
Feeling like one of the gang. When a new volunteer shows up, greet her by name. If you’re bad with names, fess up about that but make up for it with some other personal detail, such as asking how a recent vacation went or whether her child still enjoys a particular extracurricular activity.
Having fun. If a task or event comes off without a hitch, that’s great; a few hiccups are probably inevitable, though. Keep things in perspective for your group, yourself, and your volunteers.
Feeling useful. How does each volunteer’s efforts fit into the larger picture? Make clear how their individual contributions help further the group’s goals.
Giving their kids bragging rights. There is little better for a parent than hearing their child proudly announce “My mom did that!” Consider ways to bring students into the mix, such as by passing out stickers that say “My Parent Is a Volunteer” or having the principal thank students during morning announcements for “letting” their parents help out at school.
Being sincerely recognized. Nothing is more motivating than hearing that you’re doing a good job. Express appreciation—publicly—while a task is in progress as well as after it’s been completed.