Quick Jump :    Active Listening

Nurturing volunteers (and coordinators)

Volunteers are the heartbeat of Boomerang Bags, so it’s important to ensure that everyone within your group feels nurtured and supported.

Managing your volunteers effectively and providing them with adequate support will help you retain them for the longevity of the project. In the first phases of a community project, people are excited and enthusiastic about the prospects of change, however sometimes as things progress or if the project slows, people can lose interest or feel overwhelmed and choose to leave.

Understanding why people get involved is one way to nurture volunteerism. Motivators are different for everyone and often include: personal values – finding your tribe, opportunities to use their skills, help others and/or learn new skills, enjoyment, meeting new people and connecting with friends, being of service toward a greater good, meaning and purpose and supporting mental health by proving opportunities to break down feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

People who volunteer often get great personal satisfaction from the work that they do for others. Being a volunteer can boost your self-esteem, it can help you acquire new skills and abilities and can help you meet new people. Along with personal gain, volunteers understand that working together for the greater good is a must for any thriving community.

Here’s a few hints to nurturing your volunteers throughout the course of the project:

  • Match the right person with the right role by knowing and respecting the skills and abilities
  • Give ownership or tasks by allowing them to make decisions, and supporting their choices
  • Dedicate time to celebrating successes as a group, and recognising the achievements and progress the group is making

Active listening

“Listening is appreciating others, and is the best way to build trust.”

We all have the need to be valued and recognised in some way. One of the best ways to recognise someone is by listening to what they have to say, and accepting them the way they are. A good listener is able to see the world through the eyes of others, to understand different perspectives and opinions, and to see the big picture. Listening also helps in leading people with different personalities and strengths towards a common goal.

Active listening means fully concentrating on what is being said and what it means (as opposed to just passively ‘hearing’ the message). When we show that we’re really listening, it’s much more rewarding for the speaker, it creates trust, and safety.

Tips on how to be a good listener

  • Keep attentive throughout – put down the scissors, unpicker, phone or any other distractions and focus wholeheartedly on the speaker and their message. Be committed to understanding what is being said.
  • Use body language which shows that you are engaged (e.g maintain eye contact)
  • See every conversation as an opportunity to get to know the other person better, to learn something new, and to develop a meaningful bond with them
  • Listen to understand, not to reply.
  • Ask follow up questions in order to gain an even deeper understanding
  • Avoid interrupting (which may mean letting go of that really good come-back!). Create space for the other person to speak at their own pace (allowing silences is ok!)
  • Empathise.
  • Listen for key points where you can find common ground
  • Ask open ended questions (e.g those that invite more than a yes or no response)
  • Be inclusive. Bring other people into the conversation (where relevant).

Tips on how to be a good listener


  • Listen to the objection
  • Use questions to identify what the real concern or issue is. This will clarify for the other person what their own concern is.


  • Acknowledge the persons concern and feelings. (e.g “I understand why you think/feel that.”). If you don’t genuinely understand right away, ask more questions until you do.
  • Empathise. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.


  • Continue to pose questions that allow the person to review and reflect upon their position
  • Help to identify an alternative viewpoint by proposing alternatives and solutions
  • Create space for the person (and yourself) to consider a different way of thinking.