What is workforce management and how your non profit can benefit from it

Rosterfy takes a closer look at workforce management, specifically in the non-profit context when managing volunteers.

Your workforce is your company’s biggest asset. They are the face and brains of your business and determine the success or failure of it. 

Therefore, it is your job to invest in them, and do everything in your power to ensure they are working as efficiently as possible. 

In this article, we’ll discuss workforce management, specifically in the non-profit context when managing volunteers. We’ll look at how taking a strategic approach to managing your volunteers can benefit your non-profit.

 We’ll cover the following topics:

  • What is workforce management and how it works?
  • What is a workforce management system?
  • Why is workforce management strategy important?
  • How can organizations use volunteers to grow their workforce while reducing costs?
  • How to use workforce management software to improve your volunteer program
  • How to effectively manage volunteers

What is workforce management and how does it work?

Workforce management (WFM) is an integrated set of processes and systems used to optimize employee productivity.

Traditional workforce management involves forecasting labor requirements, managing staff schedules, tracking employee performance, leave planning, payroll and compliance. 

However, within nonprofits, workforce management processes can also be applied to the volunteer workforce. While some things like tracking performance and payroll may not be applicable for volunteer teams, many other functions can help non profits improve their volunteer management program.

Investing in infrastructure that helps recruit, develop, place, recognize, and retain volunteer talent is an investment in the success and longevity of a non profit.

What is workforce management software? 

A workforce management solution system is a piece of software that simplifies and streamlines all aspects of managing a team of volunteers, or staff.

 When we are considering a volunteer workforce, the four main aspects are:

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Employee Engagement
  • Retention

By applying a systematic approach to these elements, you can free up valuable admin time, while ensuring the volunteer program is running as smoothly as possible. For example, Rosterfy’s volunteer management software on average saves clients 40% of their time by replacing manual processes with automations.

The other thing a workforce management system can do is provide you with a better understanding of how your program is running through reports. These may include status of shifts, training updates, timesheets and check in rates through to user demographics and documentation. 

 Why is workforce management strategy important?

Volunteers contribute $147 billion into the US economy each year through their efforts. Yet the attrition rate sits at around 70%. And the biggest contributor to this? Poor volunteer workforce management. 

Multiple studies have found that volunteers who feel undervalued, confused over volunteer duties, unsupported and burnt out are most likely to move on. 

With volunteer recruitment being one of the toughest aspects of volunteer management, it makes sense that organizations should be striving to keep volunteers for as long as possible. Not only does it save time and effort recruiting new volunteers, but the expertise and knowledge of experienced volunteers doesn’t walk out the door too.

By reframing the concept of volunteers as a skilled workforce that would otherwise have to be paid for, instead of nice-to-have helpers, volunteer workforce management will be treated with the importance it deserves.

How can organizations use volunteers to grow their workforce while reducing costs?

We often see volunteers being given purely manual labor roles - stuffing envelopes, painting fences or tin-rattling. While these may be necessary tasks, they are certainly not fulfilling or challenging for most people. These volunteers will likely walk away with an empty feeling as they know that the job they’ve been given is not making much of an impact - and they’re unlikely to return.

Instead of giving volunteers the most basic of tasks, why not look at volunteers as the incredible resource they are. Retired seniors (the largest demographic of volunteers in most countries) come with decades of professional experience and networks. They may have skills in finance, marketing, training, project management or sales - many of the skills the nonprofit sector desperately needs. 

Similarly, today’s students and young people are digital natives, and can use their expertise in areas of web development, social media, IT and digital marketing - also skills desperately needed by non profits.

Savvy volunteer managers are recognizing this opportunity to grow their workforce while reducing operational costs by recruiting skilled volunteers to fill roles previously held by paid staff. Volunteers can help nonprofits save money by taking on responsibilities such as program development, training staff, mentoring, conducting strategic workforce planning, all without being paid a salary. In some instances, volunteers can even manage paid staff.

In return, volunteers will get more out of the experience, feeling proud and valued as they recognize the major impact they have on the success of the organization, while reaping physical and mental benefits of volunteering. Student volunteers can gain work experience, build networks and grow their portfolio to give them a better chance of getting hired down the track.

How to use workforce management software to improve your volunteer program

Workforce management software is the best way to take the guesswork out of volunteer management. When used to its full capability, it can help you maximize the contribution of volunteers and the impact of your program.

Capitalizing on volunteer talent 

To capitalize on the massive resource presented by volunteers, managers need to start placing a higher value on volunteers. Instead of thinking of volunteers as cheap free labor, reframing volunteers as skilled professionals who can take on work that the organization would have otherwise hired paid staff to do, volunteers will begin to get the respect and treatment they deserve. 

Identifying the skills, talents and passions of your volunteers is the first step towards creating a more meaningful volunteer experience. During the registration process, include a section that asks volunteers to list their main skills and interests. You can also ask them for their motivation for signing up, and what they hope to get out of the experience.

These simple questions will help you see volunteers as the uniquely talented individuals they are. The answers can help you to shape an experience that is meaningful and engaging for the volunteer- while placing them in roles that marry their skills with your organization's needs.

Attracting new volunteering talent 

Attrition is normal in even the best organizations. So when it comes time to recruit new volunteers, strategic targeting can help you get the best results.

Consider how volunteers could contribute in more ways than just hands-on tasks. Local community members may know more about the community's assets, important players, and the real needs of the community. We also know that engaged volunteers are likely to donate money, and become evangelists for your organization, recruiting friends and family to get involved, multiplying the impact of their individual contributions.  

Don’t forget to tap into underrepresented groups in your community. Religious groups, minorities, people with disabilities and students are all amazing hotbeds of talent, and they can also increase the diversity of your organization- bringing fresh ideas, networks and perspectives.  

Before you get started, make sure you’ve got a clear volunteer job description. That way, when you start posting your open positions, potential volunteers will know exactly what to expect from your volunteer opportunity. Get this right, and you’ll be on your way to a strong volunteer management program that stands the test of time. 

Strategically manage supporters 

Just as you would invest time and energy into keeping staff happy, it’s just as important to proactively manage volunteers.

Did you know that 69% of people are more likely to stay with an organization if they experienced good onboarding? That’s because the initial onboarding process is often a sign of things to come. If a volunteer signs up to volunteer and doesn’t hear back for weeks, they’re likely to give up and move on. However, if a volunteer signs up, and automatically receives an email to join the next onboarding session, or complete some dedicated training modules from within their very own personalized volunteer portal, they’ll already feel part of the organization. 

Similarly, if they are kept waiting for an invite to their first shift, they may lose interest. Empowering them to search through available roles and shifts and select one that suits their schedule will help them stay motivated and engaged. 

Building a strong sense of community for your volunteers can help them feel like part of something big. Simple initiatives like creating volunteer team names, setting up volunteer chat groups or social media networks, thank you events and reward and recognition programs are all simple ways to show volunteers they are respected and valued. These channels can be used to recognize volunteer contributions, demonstrate the value of volunteers, and share impact reports.

Lastly, provide opportunities for training and personal development. If you need more first aid officers, organize a first-aid training course and invite volunteers to participate. If your organization is looking to apply for grants, reach out to your volunteer network to see if anyone is interested in learning how to write grants. By providing volunteers with the opportunity to upskill, take on more responsibility and grow, you are showing them that they are valued and respected members of your organization.

How do you effectively manage volunteers?

Effective volunteer management comes down to treating your volunteers with the care, attention and respect they deserve. There are three key areas to focus on when it comes to volunteer management; Recruitment, retention and recognition.

Getting these three things right will go a long way to ensuring your volunteer workforce program is sustainable and successful. 

We recommend taking the time to write a volunteer management plan that details your overall goals, and how volunteers can help you achieve them. A detailed volunteer management strategy can help create operational efficiencies while creating a positive experience for your volunteers, so they will return year after year (and bring some friends with them) to be part of your team. 

Regularly surveying your volunteers to find out what’s working and what’s not can help you stay on track and maintain high volunteer retention levels.

 If you want to read more, check out these articles on our blog:


About Rosterfy

At Rosterfy, we understand that building and managing an engaged volunteer workforce is challenging. 

By understanding the volunteer management challenges your organization is facing, you can focus on improving volunteering opportunities and engagement in order to achieve a mutually beneficial volunteer program and facilitate an all-around positive volunteer experience.

If you want to see Rosterfy’s powerful volunteer management software in action, speak to us to book a demo.

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