How to manage volunteers effectively
Managing volunteers effectively is an important element of running a nonprofit organization. It requires careful planning and coordination to ensure that volunteers are engaged and productive, and that their efforts are recognised and rewarded appropriately.
In this guide, we will explore what volunteer management is and the benefits it can provide. We’ll also cover the steps necessary for successful volunteer management, and some tips on how to manage volunteers effectively.
What is volunteer management?
Volunteer management is the process of recruiting, organising, and managing volunteers. It involves a variety of activities including onboarding volunteers, developing programs for them, training them, and managing their performance. The goal of volunteer management is to ensure that volunteers are engaged and productive, and that their efforts help the organisation to deliver its mission and vision.
Volunteer management is a key component of any nonprofit organisation, as volunteers provide invaluable support and assistance. Volunteers can help organisations increase their capacity to serve the community, reduce costs, and maximise impact. Additionally, volunteers can provide a sense of community, energy, and enthusiasm that is hard to replicate.
The success of a volunteer management program depends on the ability of an organisation to recruit, retain, and engage volunteers. This requires a well-thought-out strategy that is tailored to the organisation’s needs and addresses the challenges associated with
Steps for managing volunteers
Managing volunteers effectively is crucial for the success of any volunteer program, as it helps to ensure that volunteers are engaged, motivated, and able to make a meaningful contribution.
There are several key steps in managing volunteers effectively:
1. Define the volunteer roles in the organisation
The first step when thinking about how to manage volunteers is to understand the roles volunteers will fill in the organisation and how they can have the greatest impact.
It is likely the organisation will have frontline volunteer roles where the volunteers are working directly with the individuals and causes the organisation supports. Volunteers serving meals in a homeless shelter or getting involved in environment volunteering are examples of frontline volunteers.
There are also back of house volunteer roles that provide administrative assistance such as data entry, filing, website maintenance, and event planning.
An organisation’s management team should identify gaps in operations and service that aren’t being filled by paid staff. This information can inform what additional roles are required and, how volunteers can fill them. A volunteer job description should be written and then shared on social media, in local newspapers and community notice boards.
2. Recruit volunteers
Volunteers are donating their time to the organisation, with no expectation of compensation. Each volunteer has a different background, skillset and experience to bring to the organisation, and the role.
When recruiting volunteers to fill roles, consideration should be given what skills are necessary to successfully carry out the role and what applicants would be a good fit for the role.
3. Onboarding volunteers
The onboarding process is an opportunity for the organisation to share information that helps the volunteer familiarise themself with the organisation, its mission, vision and causes that it supports.
During onboarding, the organisation should communicate its expectations of the role, the responsibilities of the volunteer, and what the volunteer can expect from the organisation. Details of the organisation’s history, work culture and environment, how the organisation functions, and its core values can be provided to the volunteer during this stage of the volunteer management process.
The volunteer should also be informed about what training, support and development opportunities are offered, and what tools and resources are available to help the volunteer fulfil their role successfully.
4. Establish clear communication
Communication is essential to managing volunteers effectively. This includes having an open dialogue between volunteers and their supervisors, as well as between volunteers and other members of the organisation. This communication helps organisations to understand what volunteers need to attain success, and pinpoint areas that require improvement.
A communications policy can be drafted that explains how information will be shared within the organisation, and with those outside of the organisation. This policy should outline the most suitable communication methods for each situation, for example whether email or a face to face conversation is more appropriate in a given scenario. Organisations should cultivate an environment that supports open and clear communication. This includes encouraging communication and promoting channels to ask questions and offer input.
5. Provide comprehensive training
It is recommended that organisations develop a comprehensive training program that trains volunteers on the specific tasks they will be performing in their role.
The training program should detail the training requirements for each position, plus how and when the training will be delivered. Whether the training is in-person or online, it needs to be easily accessible and should use different training methods such as webinars, videos and group training sessions.
6. Provide feedback to volunteer
Ideally, an organisation should have individuals from different departments provide feedback on the performance of volunteers. This includes the volunteer’s supervisor, as well as others who are working with the volunteer in a one-on-one capacity. This type of evaluation process is best managed through a volunteer management system like Rosterfy. An automated feedback and evaluation tool helps to easily collect feedback from individuals through a system that is simple and easy to use. The system can report on hours worked, feedback received, and performance reviews.
When collecting feedback, organisations should make sure they are asking specific questions that will provide insight into how volunteers are performing and how they can improve. Asking specific questions, for example, “What did you like about the volunteer’s performance?” or “What do you think the volunteer can improve on?” encourages responses that include valuable feedback.
7. Recognise and reward volunteers
It is important to recognise and reward volunteers for their contributions, as it shows appreciation and gratitude, and encourages continued involvement and engagement. Here are a few ways to recognise and reward volunteers:
Say thank you: A simple thank you goes a long way in expressing appreciation. Take the time to personally thank volunteers for their efforts, whether it’s through a phone call, email, or handwritten note.
Offer a small gift: A small token of appreciation, such as a gift card or a small piece of merchandise, is a thoughtful way to show gratitude.
Host a volunteer appreciation event: Consider hosting a special event to recognise volunteers, such as a lunch, dinner, or fun activity. This can be a great opportunity to bring volunteers together and thank them for their contributions.
Give public recognition: Publicly recognising volunteers through social media, a newsletter, or at a public event acknowledges their efforts and may inspire others to get involved.
Using volunteer management software
Volunteer management software like Rosterfy, is a powerful tool that helps organisations effectively manage and coordinate their volunteer efforts. Whether you are working with a small team of volunteers or coordinating a large-scale project with hundreds of volunteers, using volunteer management software helps to automate and streamline processes, and improve efficiency.
One of the main benefits of using volunteer management software is the ability to easily schedule and assign tasks to volunteers. With a centralised system, organisations can create and manage shifts, assign tasks, and communicate with volunteers all in one place. This can save time and reduce the risk of miscommunication, ensuring that volunteers are able to easily access and complete their assignments.
In addition to scheduling and task management, volunteer management software can also help with tracking volunteer hours and activity. This can be particularly useful for organisations that rely on volunteers to meet specific goals or targets. By tracking volunteer hours and activity, organisations can get a clear picture of the impact and value of their volunteer program.
Other features of volunteer management software include tools for onboarding and training volunteers, analytics, and creating reports.
If you are considering using volunteer management software, it is important to research and compare different options to find the best fit for your organisation’s needs and budget.
Tips for managing a volunteer workforce
When coordinating volunteers for a nonprofit organisation it is important to have a clear plan in place to ensure that the volunteer experience is positive for both the volunteers and the organisation. Here are some tips on how to manage volunteers:
- Identify the right volunteers. Organisations should take the time to identify the right volunteers for their organisation. The volunteers should have the skills, experience, and commitment necessary to succeed in the role. Consider the skills and interests of potential volunteers when recruiting. This will help ensure that the volunteer experience is meaningful and enjoyable for them.
- Establish clear expectations. Organisations should establish clear expectations for the role of the volunteer. This should include a description of the tasks the volunteer will be performing and the expected outcomes. Volunteers need to understand what is expected of them and how their efforts will contribute to the organisation’s goals. Be realistic about the time and effort that volunteers will need to invest. Set clear expectations for attendance and make sure that volunteers are aware of any deadlines or important dates.
- Provide training and support. Organisations should provide volunteers with the training and support necessary to be successful. This includes providing orientation and training on the tasks they will be performing, as well as ongoing support and feedback. Make sure that volunteers have the necessary training and resources to do their jobs effectively.
- Create a positive and inclusive environment. Organisations should strive to create a positive environment for volunteers. This includes providing recognition for their efforts and acknowledging their contributions. Show appreciation for volunteers and make sure they feel welcome and valued. Encourage teamwork and open communication amongst volunteers.
- Monitor and evaluate the volunteer program. Organisations should monitor and evaluate volunteers to ensure they are meeting expectations. This should include tracking hours worked, providing feedback to volunteers, and conducting performance reviews. Regularly check in with volunteers to see how they are doing and gather feedback about the program. Use this information to make any necessary improvements.
Managing volunteers is a rewarding but challenging task. By clearly defining roles and responsibilities, recruiting the right volunteers, providing training and support, creating a positive and inclusive environment, and monitoring and evaluating the volunteer program, organisations can effectively manage volunteers and create a positive experience for both volunteers and the organisation. The effort put into managing volunteers can result in increased productivity, a sense of community, and a positive impact on the organisation's mission and goals. Overall, effective volunteer management is essential for the success of any nonprofit organisation and the satisfaction of its volunteers.
Rosterfy exists to connect communities to events and causes they are passionate about through volunteer and paid workforce management technology. Our proven end to end technology allows charities, events and nonprofit organisations to recruit, register, screen, train, manage and report with ease, replacing manual processes with automations to better engage and retain your volunteers and paid staff.
Read more helpful articles on our blog: