3 Ways Volunteer-Building is Like the NBA Finals

nba finals

Volunteering is an activity that should be enjoyed by everyone. It allows you to help others in need while showcasing your talent. From writing press materials to helping organize a gala, volunteering combines everything I love—just like the 2013 NBA Finals!

Here are three lessons you can learn about volunteer-building from the 2013 NBA Finals.


What good is a team if no one knows what role they should play? Each “player” has a role to support, shape and help garner success and when it comes to volunteering—there aren’t any small roles.

It’s important to let volunteers know that each person is essential to the overall success of the team. Even though volunteers may feel as though they aren’t contributing much, if you remind them how valued their efforts are to the team, they will come to understand that every effort counts. Take a note from the Spurs. This team comes together to make Championships happen and are considered by some the most successful basketball team in franchise history. They listen to one another. They understand one another. And it shows.

Granted, the last game wasn’t their best, but the Spurs have teamwork down to a science. They pass, throw, block and do whatever it takes to get the job done. are you familiar with Danny Green? Of course you are; he was on fire in Game 3. He owned the night. Point after point. Like any good volunteer program, sometimes you have to step up and do your part to bring in fresh ideas.

Do you realize that programs like food banks needs every “player” on the court to contribute? If not, food would be misplaced, the warehouse would be disheveled, and everything would be out of order. Because of the teamwork exhibited by food bank volunteers, these nonprofits are able to serve thousands of families even in the busiest of times.

nba finals danny greenThink about the level of teamwork your volunteer team currently operates on. Are you winning trophies and awards for your programs? Are volunteer numbers growing? Is the program stagnant? Does the community know you are there? If you answered yes to any of these, it may be time to change how your team operates.

After a huge lost, the Big 3 (Miami Heat) came back with a vengeance. LeBron James passed, Bosh blocked and Wade scored. They bounced back, but it was because they took the time to figure out what worked and get them closer to what they want—a Championship!

Using Time Wisely

Sometimes, you need to take a timeout to figure out what you need in order to secure and retain volunteers. Volunteers should have proper training in whatever area they are serving before interacting with the public. Like most people, volunteers want clear direction on what they need to do before being thrust in front. Think of music festivals. They are loud. Kids get lost. People get sick. Each time one of these things occurs, there is a volunteer present to assist.

It is important to inform volunteers of any changes before their shift begins. True leaders on a team learn from mistakes and work to fix it. Notice how Tim Duncan stated The Spurs need to do things differently to win Game 5? Whether it’s taking more risk with shots or putting more heat on the Heat, they have a let’s get it done attitude. Can you say the same for your volunteer program?

Recently, the City of Moore, Oklahoma experienced a horrific tornado and in the mist of the tears, volunteers rose up to the challenge of serving people in need.  These were people who were ready to give their time, expertise, and support to save lives.

In the middle of a storm, The Red Cross arrived ready to supply food, water, batteries and even temporary housing. They exist to help those in tremendous need and it goes smoothly because they quickly prep volunteers on what they need to do and how to do it. It does not take hours to prep volunteers, just clear direction, a point of contact, and dedication to the cause.

Practice Makes Perfect

Running a successful volunteer program is not easy. You have people who never come back, you have volunteers that are dissatisfied with the level of work, and sometimes good volunteers get lost in the shuffle.

The best way to keep your volunteer program afloat and thriving is to have volunteers give feedback. This allows volunteers to be open about offer tips on what can be improved. You aren’t going to satisfy every volunteer, but it is imperative for them to know their value. Look at critiques as a way to improve communication and task.

Volunteering should be an enjoyable experience and when handled correctly can influence others to get involved with your cause.

Vannessa Wade

Vannessa Wade is the founder and CEO of Connect The Dots PR in Houston, Texas. An alumna of the University of Houston, Wade specializes in public relations and community development programming for nonprofit organizations and corporate businesses and has been featured in numerous newspaper, television and radio segments.

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