Rewarding Volunteers

Free «Rewarding Volunteers» Essay Sample

Subordination on the workplace is often a debatable topic. People cannot avoid misunderstanding, vexing, discord, leadership problems, and other types of negative work feedback. Work process seems to be more complicated when it involves volunteering. Working with volunteers implicates special type of leadership that directs on organizing, inspiration, and profitable management of volunteers. Leadership is a process of selecting the right strategy of behavior and remaining compatible with working environment around. Such phenomenon as volunteering lacks of important motivation mechanism – material payment. Experienced managers always seek for different ways to stimulate volunteers on devoted and diligent work. Proper leadership style, approach to rewarding systems and simple mutual understanding are the key components in management. They may become problems on different stages of communication with volunteers. This research paper aims to analyze and investigate problems of leadership, estimation, reward, and motivation in the volunteering group of the Online University, and importance of above mentioned processes.

Causes of the Problem

The first program director did not have a proper leadership style to coordinate volunteers. As volunteers were selected and trained to do the particular job, it means that only the encouraging atmosphere and caring supervision were necessary. One can make a conclusion that the problem was in the director’s treatment of volunteers, inability to manage, or in the lack of respect from both sides. Respect is inevitable compound of the healthy relationships on the workplace. Volunteers do not have any material reward for their contributions, and the things that keep them together are understanding and working for the particular mission. Without mutual respect and cooperation, such type of work would not work out. Kyriakidou and Ozbilgin (2006) support the statement: “Relationships of shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect enable employees in an interdependent work process to embrace their connections with one another, strengthening their collective identity and in turn enabling them to engage in coordinated collective action in the face of task of environmental uncertainty” (p.86). The first program director just did not find the needed leadership line.

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The case provides a clear understanding that the second director also had resembling issues with volunteers. For nine months there were no leader and it also affected the team, because work without a skillful leader is often useless. When volunteers want to work on the particular job, they expect some kind of reward, payback as experience, self-expression, new opportunities, striving for the common goal. In this case in the Online University strong and motivated leader was absent, the established atmosphere was not encouraging, and the aim to help and develop the broadcasting station seemed less attractive every time, therefore some problems appeared. It is hard to organize a particular amount of volunteering people, inspire, motivate and stimulate them. However, HR department had to pay more attention to the qualifications of a leader, and behavior and qualities of volunteers being trained. Usually volunteers are ready to work, they are easy to inspire and willing to help. They need an adjustment mechanism which controls, assesses, and keeps the friendly team. The problem of understaffing in the Online University was mainly because of changing leaders, wrong leadership style, common misunderstanding, and lack of stimulation to unite and work. It resulted in total resignation of volunteers and waste of time without notable achievements by the broadcasting station. Leaders that were constantly changing did not input working policy, and main organizational adjustments, but disenchanted the volunteers. The leadership style of program directors did not pick the right strategy to co-operate. The main rule of working with people is to remain human. Communication issues reflect on the program work. In this situation the main aim of the leader is to motivate, stimulate, and treat volunteers right.

The Importance of Leadership Style

A leader is an essential part of any project. A leader is like a parent that educates children. Each parent teaches children how to live, and each one has different children. The lessons parents give, reflect positively or negatively on children. In working collective everything is the same: leader’s actions and behavior results on the whole team. A leader constructs the relationships, atmosphere and working process. Working with volunteers, leader should be strong enough to persuade and inspire them in special seeing of the situation. A program director should show to volunteers that there is a larger aim, than just broadcasting, but sharing knowledge, changing the world with information, giving people more opportunities. Volunteers should feel contentment and pride about their work and their goal. Leaders provide and promote such position in volunteers.

A leadership style that is appropriate in this case should be oriented on mutual understanding in the team, valuation of workers, but not instant evaluation, organizing and precise planning of sought tasks. A leader should set a goal and exact list of activities to reach this goal, and every volunteer would play its part and accomplish tasks given. The atmosphere and relationships between team and program director should rather be friendly, and director should direct, but not order or charge. In his book, Northouse (2012) argued that people nowadays want to have access to their leaders, want to be open with them, have trusting relationships with them and as a result to present leaders greater loyalty and commitment, demonstrating obligation toward each other (p.260). In order to motivate and manage volunteer staff, program director needs not only to create the image of the successful leader, but to be the one.


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Discussing the issue of leadership style importance, it is needed to work out the negative options of wrong leadership position in order to show its practical value. For example, the Online University would hire the third program director. New leader would gather all the volunteers and bring them back to the broadcasting station. All the rules and organizational moments would be clear for the volunteers, but they would feel that the task is rather formal, and they would do the work only to complete it, not for the sake of their interests, inspiration, communication or experience. Sooner or later such “cold” approach will disappoint volunteers, and everything will recur. In such situation the HR managers should take their part and check twice before appointing the program director. It is important to hire the right program director and not only appoint somebody only because it is urgent to do so. Viewing this situation, one can make the conclusion that everything seemed to be right, and volunteers should have been working. However, harmony in managing process is also a key-note. Redundant formalities with volunteers may result in disappointment for both sides, because volunteers are people, which take up for actions because of interest, passion, development and willingness to help. The list of reasons implicates the emotional involvement to the actions they are volunteered to do. Leadership style should be flexible and open to the team. In their book, Sims and Quatro (2005) expressed the opinion on how the leader looks like: “Effective nonprofit leaders and board members serve as cheerleaders and ambassadors, who are clearly interested in the organization’s mission and are willing to devote the time and make the commitment”(p.92). It means that an essential part of the work depends on leader’s attitude to mission and willingness to share common ideas, as well as volunteers do.

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The Reward System

Volunteers are people who need a special reward system in order to be satisfied with their work and provide suited profit. Experience tells that social opportunities, working for purpose, self-affirmation, and integrated endeavors for mission motivate and stimulate people to go for volunteering. Scott (2014) emphasizes six types of reasons for people to volunteer: pro-social (for the benefit of others), belonging (for social relationships), self enhancement (to feel better about themselves), self-protective (to distract from particular troubles in life), developmental (to gain knowledge), career (to increase job opportunities). In this case volunteers were selected to work on the broadcasting station, so they had specific reasons to go for this type of volunteering. Identification of these reasons is a key to give volunteers at least the part of the reward they expect. A leader should communicate with volunteers, know them better, orientate in their motivations, so to ensure that the reward system is chosen correctly.

As for informal rewards, they are the most efficient because they implicate recognition of volunteer’s success during the process of communication in the team. Regular praises and commendations, if a volunteer does the job right and responsible, are the basis. One does not need to give vain flattery, but to notice and mark deserved praises. It helps to boost the self-esteem of the member, set up friendly atmosphere, and (depends on situation) to increase performance. Sequeira (2008) suggests that sincere praise is appropriate, and it is important to make evaluation a positive experience, but volunteer should be encouraged to set new goals and consider new challenges (p.239).

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Informal methods of rewards also include an address for advice. A leader should consult with his team in order to show their personal equality and give volunteers one more chance to demonstrate themselves. Volunteer promotion is also a motivational reward that gives responsibility and duties for the previous successes, so volunteer tries to correspond to the new demands and it is highly motivating.

To formal distinction methods refer different rewards of formal or official character, diplomas, banquets, official gratitude. “Hall of fame” or “Worker of the week” are good concepts to cheer up person’s ambitions. Some people go for volunteering in order to represent themselves or prove that they are able for greater actions. Strive competition is one of the human’s initial instincts, smart leader can use its positive side and place somebody’s photo on the hall of fame.

“Thank You” letter as an option to express affirmation of the individual’s activities may be a method to mark the distinctive virtues of everyone and make it quite personal. Letters of appreciation on the main workplace, or recommendation letters if needed, are major stimulation for people to volunteer. Volunteering is a social activity that is valuable for most employers.

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Personal gratitude or diploma from famous person or from the chief of the Online University for contribution to the program is very respectable and pleasing for the person. Furthermore, some small present with etching for the memory of participation in this program also rewards a person.

The balanced mix of formal and informal reward type is the proposal. A program director should take an individual approach to every volunteer. Someone considers praise and public recognition as the best reward, and the other one wants a recommendation letter. Acquaintance with each volunteer personally will give the leader an answer which reward type to choose for a particular person.

Broadcasting station would gather creative people, who want to mean something, bring news, knowledge to the world and be proud of what they do. Friendly atmosphere, desire to come back once again into that particular place, to the team of that people, is motivating enough. If the level of such harmonic and encouraging atmosphere is adhered, it would be the quintessence of motivation to work for one mission.

The work on the broadcasting station that brings special or detailed knowledge about working on similar objects or programs is great motivation for volunteers to learn, devote time and endeavors. Most of people seek for experience in the field of volunteering. Perhaps, volunteers in the Online University are seeking to broaden the outlook and learn something new, or gain privileges for some courses of education.

Communication Program

In order to cope with a case and save broadcasting station, it is better to construct communication program. Communication program may be a good option because in the Online University main reasons of misunderstanding were communications issues between director and volunteers.

The first step is to find a new program director. It is highly important for HR department to thoroughly select among candidates. A person that suits this rank should be communicative, flexible in beliefs and opinions, organized and purposeful. It is important to find out if the person had an experience in volunteering. Having experience in this field means that it would be easy for the new program director to imagine work conditions even deeper for volunteers. Communication program includes meetings and talks about the work done, the goal and is oriented on friendly communication.

Then, people need to start communication program and adjust contact, somewhere in peaceful atmosphere to talk about future possibilities, and about vision of each person in the working process. For example, meet before or after work, or appoint meetings every Thursday and point out the topic of the meeting. It allows one to understand what volunteers are seeking for in this job and to give more chances to implement their intentions. A leader must take part in conversations, talks and keep an eye on the total process of program. However, volunteers also should play a major part. Not only a leader has to strive to the program success, volunteers should also think about common goal, opportunities, and bear the responsibility for their actions and behavior.

Budgetary constraints in the Online University mean that it is unlikely to be new recruiting of the volunteer staff. In case it is possible to hire and train new volunteers and new program director it would be more profitable, and will pay its own way in the future. New volunteers do not know about previous leadership failure, so they are more inspired and ready to learn. While “old” volunteers would carry the baggage of a negative experience and may be skeptical about a new program director and program at all.

In case there is no way to train new volunteers, old volunteers have to understand the importance of their input, upcoming possibilities, and see concise steps to develop broadcasting station and opportunity to bring it on the brand new level. They should be inspired by the re-start of the program.

People should communicate with each other and have cheerful or at least pleasant atmosphere. Topics to discuss should be goal, mission, performance, pros and cons of working, changes to make, common meetings out of work, ideas and corrections. Such team communication sessions will help to clarify and identify problems at its beginning, and to lay emphasis on the progress. Regarding the communicational programs, the highlight should always be on the common goal that the volunteer team shares.

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The communication program expects from the new program director:

  • To communicate freely with volunteers;
  • To respect their input, needs, and be friendly;
  • Do not be afraid to learn something new from volunteers;
  • To be sincere in intentions and share the common goal.

From volunteers:

  • Be open to cooperation;
  • Be friendly;
  • Be ready to learn and work for one goal;
  • Appreciate supervision and advices given;
  • Try to set up the contact with the group and with the program director.

Volunteers are people of inspiration and motivation. If friendly atmosphere is established, the only one thing left is to maintain kind, but thorough supervision.


Cooperation with volunteers needs experience and hard work. Knowing the reason of volunteering and providing working conditions under supervision of qualified director would bring great profit to any business, in case of proper approach. A system of rewards, propitious atmosphere and sharing common goal are the main motivations for volunteers to give positive payback. HR managers play an important part in such process, because picking right people is almost half work done. Leadership style of the program director should be strong and friendly. The leader cannot separate oneself from the team, but be the part of it and direct them to the mission accomplishment. Positive affirmations and sincere interest in work will make volunteers profitable workers.

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