Why Volunteer Managers are Vital
Last week’s Volunteering in America report showed an increase of 1.6 million in volunteers serving in 2009 versus 2008. Managing all these volunteers—new and old—is the job of a volunteer manager or volunteer coordinator.
During the economic downturn, non profit organizations (NPOs) all over the U.S. have had no choice other than cutting staff to stay viable; many volunteer managers and volunteer coordinators have seen their positions eliminated.
Since volunteering is increasing, it makes sense that a position to recruit, train, and retain the right volunteers would be a high-priority position at most NPOs.
What does it take to be a successful volunteer manager?
Planning: Assessing the needs of the organization and the numbers and types of volunteer positions needed to meet those needs is key.
Goal Setting: Often, state and federal mandates must be met to receive funding. Setting goals for volunteers and comparing to actual outcomes is often the only way to keep funds coming in.
Defining Roles: Volunteers need to know why they are there, what is expected from them, and how they’ll know when they’ve been successful. Volunteer coordinators determine what work needs to be done, and ensure a safe, qualified volunteer is in each position.
Acting as liaison between staff and volunteers: This is a tricky and important task. Volunteer managers work with paid staff to encourage their support of volunteers, make sure communication is clear, and that toes aren’t stepped on.
Recruiting: Finding volunteers can be an endless job, depending on the size of the organization. Good volunteer coordinators always have their eyes and ears open for “new blood” to replace volunteers who quit, move, or want short-term commitments. Creative thinking is a big part of successful recruiting.
Volunteer Screening: It’s vital to have one knowledgeable person in place who can ensure the safety of clients, staff and other volunteers by screening volunteers’ backgrounds.
Placing: Matching the right volunteer to each position is vital to keeping him or her happy, productive, and retained.
Following Up: Constant check-in with individuals who’ve shown interest in volunteering but haven’t signed up, current volunteers, and former volunteers is a big part of successful volunteer management—and it takes time.
All of these factors point to the need in most NPOs for a dedicated volunteer manager or volunteer coordinator. Especially when times are tough, a volunteer manager saves an organization time and money by helping things run more smoothly with fewer paid staff.