Band Parents — The Ideal Ad Hoc Team Model?

by | Oct 26, 2023 | Employee Engagement, I-O Psychology, Teamwork | 0 comments

Diverse groups of adults working in sync with each other to help an org = a big YES!

Marching band kids amaze me. They pour themselves into working together to make music. They work tenaciously for weeks to learn and execute 10-minute field shows, which they perform at football games and in competitions. Like sports, the work challenges the mind, body, and spirit, and it forms strong social skills and connections imperative to performing well.

But, if you want to see something truly miraculous, look at the band parents. This gritty group of volunteers, without any promise of contingent rewards, band together with little or no knowledge of the tasks to perform nor how to perform them, and they get the job done EVERY FREAKING WEEK! From putting together uniforms to loading trucks and busses to feeding a miniature army to putting together props to pushing instruments and props into place on the performance field, band moms and dads work arm-in-arm to learn from each other, lean on each other and do their best to help the band perform their best with the least amount of worry.

Band volunteers epitomize the benefits of goal-setting theory (Locke & Latham, 2019) — they have SMART goals to accomplish, and they become motivated to attain those goals completely. I have seen band parents move through forming, storming, norming, and performing within minutes… a feat that takes some teams weeks or months to accomplish at work. Volunteer leaders take on roles that rival CEOs of large corporations making plans with very few resources to appease all stakeholders, including music directors, instructors, school administrators, and, of course, their kids. They serve in project management roles, accounting roles, training and development roles, logistics roles, health and safety roles, and even roles in culinary procurement and sanitization.

How can a group of people who don’t usually know each other well bring their A-game regardless of weather, obstacles, and lack of experience? Heck, I have worked as a “desk jockey” for most of my career in management and marketing. However, I found myself driving a big old 26’ diesel Penske box truck four times this marching season and last without really ever driving anything bigger than a van historically.

Rich Cruz drove this behemoth to move marching band equipment.

Truly, the gift of ourselves and our competencies in action rewards us whether we receive monetary payment or simply see the smiles on the faces of those with whom and for whom we work. Pope John Paul II often repeated this from the Second Vatican Council, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” Do we find ourselves when we volunteer?

The Value of Volunteers to Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations, by nature, often rely heavily on volunteers. They pour their heart, soul, and sweat into the missions of these organizations, making real change possible. Ultimately, the best volunteerism experience comes from a person-centered approach with a focus on job satisfaction (De Clerk et al., 2022). We can learn how nonprofits harness the power of volunteers most effectively and use that information to motivate people at work in a similar fashion to achieve great things from even small contributions.

Understand the Value of Volunteers

Before we even start to optimize volunteer management, we must understand the value volunteers bring. They don’t only provide ‘free labor.’ These individuals passionately believe in the mission, and they will bring their unique skills, experiences, and insights to support it.

Effective Recruitment

My wife coordinated the volunteer recruitment for the marching band. Instead of generic calls for volunteers, she split the tasks in such a way that the sign-up sheet focused on specific roles or skills required. Clearly define what volunteers can expect from a role. This helps match volunteers with roles in which they will thrive, ensuring commitment.

Training and Orientation

A well-trained volunteer believes in themself. With the self-efficacy that comes from that “can-do” attitude, they can more effectively perform their tasks (Carey & Forsyth, 2009). Furthermore, when they attain knowledge, skills, or abilities (KSAs), they become more connected to the organization. Even a quick tutorial using the EDGE method (explain, demonstrate, guide, and empower) can create high-performing individuals, especially with the talents they bring naturally.

Open Communication Channels

Volunteers have a need to feel heard. Establish open channels of communication where they can share their experiences, provide feedback, and ask questions. Always strive to keep your volunteers in the loop. Regular feedback sessions and information-sharing meetings can help identify areas of improvement, not just in volunteer management but also in the broader operations of the nonprofit.

Recognition and Appreciation

Regularly acknowledging and appreciating volunteers with gestures as simple as a thank-you or celebratory get-together can keep team cohesion going during and after the work. Volunteers need to know their efforts are making a difference.


Everyone’s life has different hours of availability. Some may be able to dedicate 10 hours a week, while others can only spare 1. By offering varied roles and flexible shifts, you can cater to a broader range of volunteers, making it easier for them to contribute.

Create a Sense of Community

Volunteers are more likely to stick around if they feel a sense of belonging. Regular meetups, team-building activities, or online forums can help build a close-knit volunteer community. Be sure to use channels that your volunteers appreciate and use.

Provide Opportunities for Growth

Many volunteers wish to upskill or take on more responsibility. Think about succession planning… after all, in a band program, kids graduate or leave for other reasons. By offering leadership roles or specialized training, you can retain volunteers for longer and utilize their growing skill sets.

Volunteers make the backbone of many nonprofit organizations. Similarly, people at work will volunteer their talents and abilities for organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) beyond their job description with passion and commitment. By investing time and resources into effective volunteer management, both nonprofits and companies achieve their mission and objectives, plus build a thriving community dedicated to positive change. When people work harmoniously, they can make a tremendous impact.


Carey, M. & Forsyth, A. (2009). Teaching tip sheet: Self-efficacy. American Psychological Association (APA).

De Clerck, T., Willem, A., De Cocker, K., & Haerens, L. (2022). Toward a refined insight into the importance of volunteers’ motivations for need-based experiences, job satisfaction, work effort, and turnover intentions in nonprofit sports clubs: A person-centered approach. Voluntas, 33(4), 807–819. doi:

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2019). The development of goal setting theory: A half-century retrospective. Motivation Science, 5(2), 93–105.

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