Trying on the Coaching Hat: What It Means to Coach Your Volunteers

What does it mean to coach your volunteers? We need to create a learning organization that requires staff and volunteers to constantly adapt.
Trying on the Coaching Hat: What It Means to Coach Your Volunteers

What does it mean to coach your volunteers?

Let’s state the obvious first: Change is more rapid and more disruptive than ever and our past solutions do not offer a path forward. To find that path, we need to strive to create a learning organization. A learning organization requires a staff and volunteers that are able to constantly adapt and tap into a culture of perpetual innovation.

Pandemic and protests highlighted the need for our volunteers to adapt and innovate. For many CRPs (association professionals working with chapters and other member communities), our systems reliant on sharing best practices and one-to-many conversations could not meet the demand in real time. We are being called to shift our approach to volunteer management from command and control (here’s what you should do) to a coaching mindset where we support and guide our volunteers to meet the change head-on.

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The coaching process can help you improve your outlook on work and life, while improving your leadership skills and unlocking your potential.” Substitute “volunteers” for “clients” in this definition, and the possibilities start to come into focus! The good news is CRPs have inherent skills in coaching. After all, we infrequently have a stick to align chapter volunteers with HQ and so we have routinely reached for the carrots: conversation and collaboration.  If we seize this opportunity is to uncover and develop our coaching skills these will support our own and our organization’s desires for resilience, adaptability, and perpetual innovation. Paraphrasing the words of Marshall Goldsmith, “What got us here won’t get us there.”


“Excellence isn’t about perfectionism. Excellence is about real people doing real work and being inspired to find creative solutions—together. When your organizational culture gives them room to grow and guides them to be their best, excellence will follow naturally.” – Laurie Reuben

Whether you’re a national organization looking for an integrated financial solution to roll-out to your chapters or a chapter officer looking to make billing and managing your member easier, we’ve got solutions.