- Volunteers are considered a crucial part of any nonprofit organization; without them, organizations would be hard-pressed to make an impact on a worthy cause. Interestingly, while getting volunteers in the door can be accomplished with a few tried-and-true strategies, managing volunteers is largely viewed as a challenge.
Why is that?
Research on this disconnect reveals the answer, and we’ve digested the challenges in volunteer management here.
1. Undervalued Positions
A troubling aspect of volunteering is that volunteers are generally seen as low members on the organizational totem pole. They have no involvement in organizational structure or planning, they work for free, and their interest is purely good-natured. As a result, volunteer management is likewise undervalued and, in some cases, degraded. Also, volunteer management is not often seen as a program that needs funding; consequently, volunteer managers have few resources to turn their duties into a robust and effective program.
2. Too Little Time
When an organization lacks a dedicated volunteer manager, the responsibilities of such a position fall to other staff members. Without a centralized leader, overworked employees struggle to balance their regular duties with volunteer engagement and retention. Attracting and keeping volunteers requires an effective and seamless program that provides clear guidelines, effective training, and regular appreciation. But, when no streamlined program is in place, volunteers are likely to lose motivation and quit, sending volunteer managers back to square one.
3. Volunteer Burn-Out
Volunteer managers frequently struggle with volunteers who begin their duties with gusto and steadfast dedication, only to peter out and become unreliable later. Without a steady group of long-term volunteers, volunteer managers find it difficult to create opportunities for growth or leadership, which could provide the organization with even more support. As a result, volunteer work might involve mostly menial tasks, which is a quick way to drive volunteers away.
Learn more about how you can effectively engage your volunteers in the webinar below. MobileServe CEO, Ben Reno-Weber, outlines how to transform volunteers into ambassadors.
4. Decentralized Guidance
When volunteer management consists of a hodgepodge of staff members, it becomes difficult for them to focus their time on keeping the machine of volunteerism well oiled. A lack of focused leadership and guidance can easily diminish the potential impact of volunteers, no matter how motivated they are. Volunteers might fail to understand how their work is helping the organization; furthermore, they might feel unprepared for their duties or spend more time asking for clarification than serving the cause.
5. Few Resources
Because volunteers perform tasks for free, volunteer managers and organization leadership might mistakenly think that a volunteer management program doesn’t need much – or any - funding. However, without resources to attract, train, and honor volunteers, volunteer managers can hardly establish and maintain such crucial support of the organization. This particular challenge is not often considered, as volunteer management is an intangible factor within an organization; that is, it is difficult to link well resourced volunteer management to the organization’s overall impact.
The common thread in all of these challenges is a lack of a dedicated volunteer manager position. Some organizations, especially those who serve a large audience and draw high numbers of volunteers, do employ a person or persons whose sole job is to maintain an effective volunteer program.
Taking a closer look at these organizations reveals important lessons for any organization to consider. In fact, it’s so important, that our next post will look at tips for understanding the volunteer manager’s role, its challenges, and how to implement best practices.
- Top 5 Tips for Effective Volunteer Management
- 7 Ways to Keep Volunteers Coming Back
- 3 Tips on Keeping a Devoted Volunteer Base
Interested in learning how MobileServe can help manage and retain your volunteers? Learn more by clicking below!