By Allison G.S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
Public safety agencies are having trouble across the country retaining volunteer members.
In some areas, it is difficult to staff ambulances without volunteers. One Pennsylvania volunteer ambulance association was forced to close its doors due to a lack of volunteers.
Society’s ideas about volunteerism have changed. So it is important for leaders to consider a variety of things to do to recruit volunteers and to retain them once they’ve agreed to work without pay. Specialized leadership training for those in managerial positions is one way leaders could learn how to find and retain volunteers.
As McGill University professor Jay Conger writes in his article Inspiring Others: the language of leadership, “Leaders need to be strategists and need to articulate a message that is motivational.” If an individual is willing to volunteer for an organization, its leaders need to motivate those volunteers to continue to give their time freely. Learning how to inspire others is not easy, and is complicated because all individuals are different and they will have different motivational needs.
Public Safety Budgets Are Already Tight
Leadership training can be expensive, which in turn creates budgetary problems. Public safety budgets are often very tight. In many cases budget cuts will only make a bad situation worse. With that said, it can be difficult for public safety organizations to pay for leadership training. But in the long run, leadership training might just be the factor that keeps volunteers returning to a station to work in their spare time.
Specialized Leadership Training
A tremendous amount of information about leadership is available, but it is difficult to sharpen leadership skills simply by reading about them. For fast-paced individuals in public safety, workshops are investments into retention efforts for volunteer organizations. There are great workshops that would be particularly helpful to public safety officials including The Leadership Challenge Workshop and Dealing with Difficult People Workshop.
It is easy to think that leadership training is unnecessary because public safety volunteers are simply glad to give of their time. Specialized leadership training can help leaders inspire others and keep them returning to volunteer.