Create a culture of switching, not ditching.
Your phone rings with the dreaded Saturday night phone call. Even as you answer the phone, you know how this conversation will go. One of your volunteers is canceling. That inevitable phone call or text or email that says “I’m sorry…” followed by the reason and rationale for why a volunteer can’t fulfill on the commitment they have made happens all too frequently.
The more volunteers that serve in your ministry, the greater the likelihood is of someone cancelling this very weekend, leaving you scrambling at the last minute for a substitute. I get it. I understand the frustration all too well. Over time, however, I desired to not be a part of that last-minute scramble. I no longer wanted to be contacted to pick up the pieces for someone who was choosing to cancel at the last minute. Instead, I wanted to create a culture of switching, not ditching.
We wanted to place the burden on the volunteer to find their own substitute, so we created a system that would allow individuals to call another volunteer, one of their teammates, and ask if they could switch this week for another week. Now, before you cry foul and say that you tried this and it was a woeful failure, I want to say that there are a couple of ground rules that must be established early on.
You need to have a fantastic relationship with all of your volunteers. They cannot see this strategy as a burden for them. You want them to view it as a wonderful service for them and others. You see, we created a culture instead of adding another task. We created a culture allowing people to see their fellow teammates as willing participants in carrying out the goals of the ministry. A culture of switching, not ditching.
Find out what the best means of contact for each team members is. Do you serve in the pre-school ministry? Great! 12 other people may fit that qualification. Of those 12 people, three would most likely be reached by phone. The others were best reached through a text message. These individuals have a relationship with one another because we as leaders created a culture of relations. So, when Connie, a dynamic volunteer in the pre-school ministry had a last-minute schedule change, she knew who to reach out to, via phone or text, on her team and simply posed the question, could this work for you?
Bottom line, my life is made easier when volunteers work out a few details on their own prior to involving me, the director or another associate to solve their problem. These volunteers are more than willing to solve this on their own because of a relationship with the staff and other volunteers. Accommodations are made for fellow teammates. When people aren’t anonymous in your ministry, they understand that people have lives just like they do. They know that at some point they are going to need the favor returned.
Do you want to avoid the painful and problematic last-minute phone calls informing you that somebody isn’t coming? I think you can do this by creating a culture of switching, not ditching.