Being an effective volunteer leader

What does it take to be an effective volunteer leader? Volunteers are an essential component of Digital Health Canada’s ongoing success in taking health informatics mainstream. Over the past several years, numerous Digital Health Canada members have expressed an interest in dedicating their expertise and time to advancing health informatics in Canada as voluntary member of committees and task forces. Many of these have taken their voluntary roles to the next level in terms of commitment, passion and leadership, and have inspired others to do so as well. So, what does it take to be an effective volunteer leader and what can you do as a volunteer leader to motivate your team?

Demonstrate the leadership skills you have developed throughout your career

As a successful health informatics professional, it is evident that you have developed leadership skills that work! You also know that different leadership styles are required for different groups and projects. Get to know your team, reflect on experience you’ve had throughout your career and find what works best for you and your team.

Be professional and show you commitment to keep volunteers engaged

Although volunteering opportunities can be fun, carrying out a project successfully or meeting a goal requires a sense of professionalism and commitment on behalf of the leader. Showing your team that you take your role and the task at hand seriously will motivate your fellow volunteers to follow suit and allow them to become more engaged in their roles.

Show empathy and provide support to your volunteers

Life is busy! Fast – paced careers, family and personal responsibilities can take up much of a health informatics professional’s free time. As a leader in health informatics, you are no stranger to this lifestyle. Your readiness in becoming a volunteer leader shows that you have established some balance between your volunteer, professional and personal responsibilities. If your team members are struggling to keep up with their volunteer work, motivate other team members to take on some of the workload. This will also promote a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility amongst the group.

Hold your volunteer team and yourself accountable

Delegate tasks by assigning clear roles to your volunteers that the entire team understands and agrees upon. After delegating regularly follow up with your volunteers to ensure that progress is being made and they are receiving support to complete their task, If volunteers are aware that the team is counting on them to complete a task they will likely make more of an effort to carry out their roles with care and competency. Whatever standards you hold for your team, remember to hold yourself to the same or even higher standards.

Regularly remind your volunteers what the overall objective is

If your volunteers do not see the value or the purpose of their roles, they will become disengaged in the project. With each new task, remind your volunteers what the objectives and goals you are working towards are and how their roles and contributions fit into the overall vision.

Let your passion shine through and have fun!

Your passion will inspire your volunteers to put their best foot forward and bring positive energy to the team resulting in volunteers who feel more engaged and satisfied with their work.


Sarah Jiwa, a former Digital Health Canada co-op student, wrote this article, originally published in the 2013 Digital Health Canada Central.