All seed saving groups are driven by volunteers. Without them the groups fail. So we should consider ourselves and the other volunteers as even more important than the seeds themselves.
First look out for yourself when volunteering
Organise your time. Time is a big factor in making sure your volunteer experience is rewarding. To stay on top of everything, make sure you plan ahead. Keep a diary, update your calendar or set reminders on your phone to make sure you don’t over-schedule your time.
Know your limits – It’s okay to say ‘no’. Be aware of the limits to your energy levels, time and skills. Learn to recognise when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or outside of your comfort zone. And don’t feel guilty when you say ‘no’ to taking on volunteer work.
Have some fun. Volunteering should be something you enjoy doing, not just because it’s rewarding, but because you have fun doing it. Use the time to make new friends and get involved in activities you know you’ll enjoy. Don’t be shy about suggesting a new and exciting project to the rest of your team, and be sure to share some laughs!
Respecting each other
Communication must be a top priority. Share the big picture – for your group locally and wider concerns with seeds worldwide. Report back regularly and share what has been achieved. Accept communications back, including ideas and concerns – communication is a two way thing and includes listening.
Respect everyone’s time. Volunteers are donors; the gift is time, not money. Make sure everyone has meaningful work and don’t waste their time. Meaningful work is not just growing, harvesting and processing seeds. We need people who will do the banking, keep records, be the person to welcome new people and explain how things work, mentor new growers, help with events, look after social media… and lots more. Try to help people find their niche where they can contribute most comfortably and make space for people to take on more if they want to. Learn to delegate and let go – when you do this effectively you are freed up to grow what can be achieved.
Relationships are really important. Find ways to socialise while doing the work. Build in morning tea or lunch in the activities because sharing food is a great connector. Check in regularly with everyone to see whether they are getting something out of the time they are contributing.
Make it easy to volunteer. Have a welcome process for new volunteers. Provide information and tools so they can get started. Make sure that everyone can volunteer and try not to have hidden barriers. These sometimes come in the form of financial barriers because volunteers are expected to fund things out of their own pockets or access barriers because of the physical time and space where meetings occur.
Supply the right tools so it isn’t a hard slog but is fun and easy work.
Express gratitude for their efforts. Try to do this in ways that are meaningful to your volunteers and situation. It may be as simple as a thank you over coffee or featuring them on your blog/website or presenting an award. Say thank you often. Volunteers can also be rewarded with training or other personal development that benefits them and the group.
Celebrate successes. Don’t forget to toot the horn of your group. Have fun and celebrate together. Achievements worth celebrating don’t have to be big and public, then can be small and only important within the group. Every positive step is made through the efforts of our volunteers and is worth celebrating.
Please share any practical ways your group looks after each other.