Serving alongside volunteers can be incredibly rewarding and at times, perplexing.

Some volunteers show up a few minutes early, do exactly what you need them to do (and even more), and maintain a great attitude no matter what task they’re tackling at the time. Others are quite the opposite and make you wonder why they decided to sign up in the first place.

If you’re wondering why your volunteers aren’t doing what you need them to do or if they arrive late or unprepared, the issue may not be a lack of enthusiasm or commitment.

They might simply not know what you need or see that there’s a problem. Better communication could be the key to unlocking your volunteers’ potential.

Here are five steps to excellent communication with volunteers:

Key No. 1: Communicate needs early

Don’t wait until the day before an event to ask someone to serve. Most volunteers have day jobs and family commitments they need to work around.

Respect their time (and increase their ability to say yes) by asking them at least two weeks before you need them to do anything – including attending a volunteer training session or meeting.

Key No. 2: Communicate often

You don’t need to bombard volunteers with emails and text messages every day. However, they will appreciate it when you keep them informed and up-to-date.

A weekly email with special announcements, upcoming changes, or details on the next volunteer opportunity would be a great place to start.

Key No. 3: Consider your audience

It’s easy to make assumptions, skim over details, and forget that we have a diverse audience. Some of your volunteers have been around for years and will immediately understand what you’re saying.

However, the newer team members may be confused and wonder what you’re talking about.

Don’t use acronyms or insider language with volunteers. Reread your communications and ask yourself, “If I was brand new to our church, would I understand this message?”

Key No. 4: Use various communication tools

You have several tools at your disposal, many of which are free including email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, phone calls, and text messages. These are all tools you can use for various types of volunteer communication.

Try posting a request for volunteers on the church Facebook page and Twitter account. Build a community online and leverage that community to keep in touch with your volunteers throughout the week.

Key No. 5: Use various communication methods

There are three main types of learning styles. Some learn best by hearing a lecture (auditory), others need to see the instructions (visual), while a third group needs to experience the lesson (tactile).

What does this look like in practice? First, invite your volunteers to a training session. Handout the instructions (visual), review them out loud (auditory) and ask if the group has any questions, then walk volunteers through the areas where they’ll serve as you discuss various aspects of their role (tactile).

By hitting all three learning styles, you increase the chances of each volunteer understanding your instructions and being able to do a great job.

Remember: Communication isn’t about you it’s about your audience. That means you need to listen to and seek feedback from your audience.

Ask volunteers if they feel like they’re receiving enough communication or information from you. Find out which method and frequency of communication they prefer. Try a few different techniques and see what works best.

Effective communication makes your volunteers feel appreciated, informed and equipped to serve with excellence. That alone makes it worth the time and effort to get it right.