10 Ways to Make the Most of Wellness Volunteers

Volunteers expand your reach across the organization and generate grassroots enthusiasm for wellness — they’re your program’s ambassadors. Get the full benefit with these ideas:

  • Be specific. Make sure you’re clear on where you need help before you ask people to donate time and energy. Write a description of the volunteer role, detailing what’s in and out of scope. You don’t want an enthusiastic admin giving out weight loss advice; nor do you want to waste anyone’s time with fuzzy directions.
  • Leverage strengths. Find out what your volunteers have to offer the overall wellness program. They may have personal or professional experience — even hobbies — that could enhance your offerings. You may discover a Zumba® instructor, a sous chef, or a CPR/first-aid instructor in your midst.
  • Build camaraderie. When volunteers feel part of the wellness team, they’ll put more effort into their roles. Give them a branded T-shirt to wear on Fridays; host a monthly or quarterly luncheon to share concerns, ideas, and updates. And be sure to set up a way for them to communicate ongoing feedback and questions through internal social media or a sharing tool.

  • Highlight volunteers who are positive role models. Invite them to share their wellness success stories by intranet blog or newsletter. This helps position volunteers as wellness leaders, fosters a sense of pride, and inspires employees.
  • Show appreciation. Hand write notes to recognize work on behalf of your wellness team or send thank-you emails, copying managers and directors. Give a virtual high-five on your Twitter feed. Volunteers are the backbone of your outreach effort; make sure they know you care.
  • Communicate well. Give your volunteers advance notice of any wellness initiatives, campaigns, or PR issues so they have a chance to contribute and ask questions. You want them fully prepared to promote participation and respond to questions and concerns.
  • Respect their time. Don’t hold frequent meetings or overwhelm them with busy work. Keep in mind that volunteers are promoting your wellness program on top of their everyday duties; they already have plenty to do.
  • Use volunteers in meaningful ways. On the other hand, it’s no fun to volunteer and never be asked to help. Give them wellness program updates to share in department meetings; invite them to help host tables at your wellness fair and lead lunchtime wellness events.
  • Cultivate collective creativity. Ask volunteers for ideas and input in designing wellness campaigns, communications, and events. They’re embedded in the population you’re trying to reach; be sure to periodically pick their brains.
  • Turn them into workplace health influencers. You already know your volunteers are interested in promoting healthy lifestyles. Conduct semiannual or quarterly training to provide insight into current worksite wellness issues. Whether it’s a deep dive into the health benefits, basics of mindfulness meditation, or how to organize workplace walking groups, training equips volunteers to inspire others for action toward better health.