What high school theatre can teach us about Volunteers

Roswell High School had their last show of musical Oklahoma! Yesterday. What a production it was for everyone involved.

Opening Night for Oklahoma! [X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Manual, ISO 6400, 1/180, ƒ/4.8, (35mm = 300)]

Our daughter Chelle was in the musical as Aunt Eller, which is why my wife and I were involved as volunteers.

While there are many other ways I could talk about being a volunteer, I thought this was a great way to talk about the roles of the volunteer.

If your organization uses volunteers, you must define volunteers’ roles, so everyone knows what they are doing. Most organizations that regularly use volunteers usually have a volunteer coordinator.

Opening Night for Oklahoma!
[X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/100, ƒ/5, (35mm = 202)]

In theater, the term role comes from an actor being given a part. No one had the entire play in the time of Shakespeare. They just had their interest. This is why, often, their role would set up the next actor.

Each person needed to know their part/role for the play to be successful.

Think of your organization like a musical to give you an idea of how important it is for each person to know their part and for someone to be responsible for coordinating, like the director of the show.

Oklahoma Performance [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 32000, 1/500, ƒ/5, (35mm = 250)]

Suppose you want to see the excitement on your volunteer’s faces like in the Oklahoma scene! Then it would help if you made everyone feel like they are part of the team.

Now everyone in this musical except for the two teachers was all volunteers. The student actors could have quit at any time.

By the way, very seldom does this not cross someone’s mind as a volunteer. The main reason for the thought of quitting is due to communication problems, which are often rooted in the poor understanding of volunteers.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

Opening Night for Oklahoma! [X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/140, ƒ/4.2, (35mm = 174)]

Here is a list of some suggestions for you:

  • Developing ways to recognize and reward volunteer efforts
  • Helping volunteers feel welcome and supported
  • Developing and managing policies, procedures, and standards for volunteers
  • Looking after the volunteer database and records
  • Planning and goal setting
  • Rostering and organizing volunteers
  • Delegating projects and tasks
  • Managing any associated budgets and expenditure
  • Communicating with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Resolving conflict or managing the grievance process.

Some No-Nos

  • Complaining about a volunteer work
  • Ask people to volunteer and then when they show up not use them
  • Make volunteers wait on you
  • Don’t thank your volunteers
Oklahoma Performance [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 18000, 1/500, ƒ/5, (35mm = 155)]


The one thing that is the most valuable given by any and every volunteer is their TIME. No matter the person, no one’s time is more valuable than any other person’s.

The only time we seem aware of how valuable our time appears to be is when our time is running out on this earth. Don’t be one who doesn’t think about how valuable your time and others are until your last days here. Each person’s hour they donate is the same value as another person.

Some who read this will disagree with me, but just like this play, if one person didn’t do their assigned part, it is noticed. An actor doesn’t appear on stage at the right moment, the other actors have to improv, and the plot can be affected by the storyline. 

Just think of the time you had a splinter and how annoying that is and affects the whole body. That is how big of a deal each person’s time is to the organization. The body will feel something so small.

Feelings Get Hurt

When people get upset working as volunteers, it can almost always be traced back to miscommunication. Often it is when the role wasn’t well defined or when volunteer shows up, and those coordinating their time drop the ball.

Opening Night for Oklahoma! [X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2000, 1/100, ƒ/5, (35mm = 91)]

When you take the time to plan and organize your thoughts about using volunteers, you can get everyone in step together.

When a plan comes together

I can tell you healthy organizations are the ones that treat everyone’s time as precious as gold. When they do, the word gets out. People see what is going on and want to join. You see, way too many people are aware of volunteering and wasting their time or at least not being treated with the respect due when you are giving away your time.

When a theatre company consistently puts on great performances, it is due to someone coordinating all those volunteers and treating everyone’s time as precious.

When respecting people’s time, you will benefit from more friends and deeper friendships. You see, a good relationship is respecting one another’s time.