Three Secrets of Super-Successful Volunteer Coaches

Written by D. Christopher Ramsey, Program Coordinator, CASA of Northeast Louisiana

Each year the National CASA conference supports and promotes the leadership, experience and knowledge exchange within the CASA/GAL network. The following article is a key-point summary of a session presented at the 2013 National CASA Conference.

Behind every compassionate CASA volunteer is a dedicated paid staff member who strives tirelessly to coach these advocates toward greater success for children and personal satisfaction. Unfortunately, the CASA network is often crippled by the frequent turn-over of paid staff and a shortage of “experts” to lead the way in highly successful volunteer coaching practices.

How do highly successful volunteer coaches recruit, train and supervise community volunteers as CASA volunteers in ways that motivate, retain and ultimately make a life-long difference for children in the social welfare system?

Every successful volunteer coach shares three bedrock practices regardless of geography, cultural background or length of experience. These three simple skills translate into super success in volunteer management. These skills are straightforward and yet they can be crafted and enhanced over a lifetime of learning.

  1. Care and Connect!
    Coaches who lead people volunteering within the CASA program effectively have a deep sense of personal connection to the individuals they are coaching. They see the community volunteer as a person to be known, cared for and connected with. They don’t fall for the trap that volunteers are simply tools to get a job done. Wise coaches spend time getting to know the individual – their story, their preferences, their hopes and their interests. Successful coaches lead a person by first developing trust and connection.
  2. Communicate Effectively!
    If you want to identify a good coach or leader, watch for someone who listens first. Working with community volunteers from various backgrounds and expertise takes a high level of communication skills. Many well-intentioned paid staff members have approached communication with the intent to clearly articulate what they want and need. But the great ones listen before they speak. They listen beyond the words. Great communicators know that so little of communication comes verbally – the majority is in emotion, body language, tone, etc. Superior coaches “lean in” to find out more. They practice empathic listening while seeking to understand before being understood. This boosts trust and connection in order to collaboratively accomplish the mission. Because they care deeply for those volunteering within their CASA program, they invest the time and discipline that this skill requires. 
  3. Manage Expectations!
    Wise coaches know how to care deeply for people and how to get results (i.e., advocacy). What separates good coaches from great ones is the ability to clearly articulate these expectations to community volunteers in a way that empowers and unleashes their unique talents. Great coaches outline the “must-do” tasks and explain how to accomplish those responsibilities while offering resources to get them done. They set up mutual agreements to know when non-negotiable tasks must be done and what to do if they are not. Follow-up doesn’t scare great coaches; it is an ally in quality advocacy.

As each volunteer coach across the CASA network practices these three skills, the network grows strong through high quality volunteer advocacy for children and greater retention and satisfaction among staff and volunteers.

Additional Information

Contact Chris Ramsey and Greg Guthrie by phone, (318) 398-0945, or email to discuss training opportunities.

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