Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part II

As promised, we continue to offer some best practices tips for volunteer managers. Increase efficiency and stay organized with tips from both the for-profit business sector and other nonprofit organizations.

1. Develop a Volunteer Acquisition Plan: Plans help you keep on goal; your volunteer recruitment efforts will be much more effective if you plan carefully. First, determine how many volunteers you need for each project, ongoing tasks, and events you have in a typical period—one month, six months, one year. Then decide the level of experience you need from your volunteers. Do you need special training, like food service, catering, accounting, truck driving, or traffic control? Or is the project something that is suitable for a family with small children?

Next, make a list of former volunteers, current supporters, and even your friends and business contacts who possess the desired training or expertise. Contact them and ask for their help. Be sure to clearly define your needs, expectations, and their time commitment.

2. Protect your Organization from Legal Harm: As a volunteer manager, you must be as aware of employment laws as any human resource manager. If you lack training in this area, research training opportunities or enlist the help of an HR Law professional for guidance. Some of the applicable federal land state laws are the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (which covers volunteer background screening and credit checks), and anti-discrimination legislation like Equal Employment Opportunity.

Keep staff, served populations and other volunteers safe and your organization out of legal trouble by carefully screening all volunteers. Review insurance policies annually to be sure volunteers are covered when working for your organization. Don’t wait until after a volunteer suffers an injury to find out you are under-insured.

3. Keep Excellent Records: Many organizations are required to track volunteer time. If you are not required, it is still a good idea to do so. Whether you obtain specialized computer software to help, or use simple spreadsheets, it’s vital to keep track of volunteer contact information, interests and abilities, projects assigned and completed, and notes regarding successes and challenges. These notes  will come in handy when conducting evaluations or when your organization is required to report to state or federal officials. If you are challenged for time to track volunteer activity, assign the task to a volunteer.

4. Be Flexible: The ability to switch hats, courses of action, and gears is a valuable one for volunteer managers. If a volunteer is having trouble with a project, losing interest in the organization, or not working out as well as you’d hoped, be ready to communicate, evaluate, and act accordingly. If your volunteer recruitment plan isn’t working as well as you need it to, double your efforts, ask a mentor for help, or simply change your approach. Try spreading the word with social media or free online ads like Craigslist.

Borrowing good management practices from others is an easy way to implement procedures that really work—and can save you valuable time!

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