Nonprofit organizations often report that obstacles in volunteer recruitment, training, and retention limit their abilities to maximize volunteer impact. In a previous article, we examined challenges to volunteer management, showing that they often result from a lack of appointed staff and streamlined protocol. Here, in a follow-up article, we look at strategies to overcome challenges and capitalize on the best resources nonprofits have: volunteers.
1. Appointed Staff
Ideally, organizations should employ a person whose sole job is to manage volunteers. With a dedicated person in charge, recruitment and training processes will be consistent, and they will give volunteers clear guidance and formalize their initiation. If employing a volunteer manager is impossible, organizations should appoint and adequately train staff to fulfill the duties. Making volunteer management an official part of staff members’ job descriptions, which will be considered in their performance evaluations, will recognize how important volunteer management is to the organization’s operations.
2. Volunteer Office Assistants
Paid staff often struggle to balance volunteer management with other responsibilities. An effective solution is to create volunteer opportunities for staff assistants. This can be particularly useful – and attractive to volunteers – if volunteer assistants are used to fill skills-based tasks, which staff have difficulty completing due to lack of time or expertise. Utilizing volunteers in this way will reduce stress and workload for paid staff and ultimately help the organization run more efficiently.
3. Leadership Opportunities
When it comes to challenges in retention, volunteer managers should consider creating opportunities for volunteers to assume leadership roles. For example, a monthly volunteer leadership meeting could give experienced volunteers the opportunity to share wisdom with new volunteers and to help them address any issues or concerns. Also, volunteer managers could “promote” experienced volunteers to volunteer trainer positions, in which they would initiate and train all new volunteers. Such opportunities would motivate volunteers, pique their interests, and lift responsibilities from busy staff.
4. Detailed Job Descriptions and Training
Volunteers need to have a clear understanding of their responsibilities from the very beginning. Providing them with detailed job descriptions and formal training will help them feel prepared for their duties. Also, surveying volunteers’ skills and interests will give volunteer managers useful guidance when assigning volunteers to tasks. The more diverse your tasks, the more likely volunteers will be to join you – and stay. Be sure to follow up with regular refresher training and recognition of great work; a happy volunteer is one who understands how their work is making a difference.
5. Funding for Volunteer Management
Adequately funding a volunteer program is crucial not only to volunteer management but to the success of the organization overall. Although this area is commonly overlooked, resources for recruitment, training, and retention will help maximize volunteers’ impact and help the organization reach its goals. To help build resources, organizations should consider applying for a capacity-building grant that would enhance their volunteer programs. Receiving such funding would allow for a more tactical approach to volunteer management, and more importantly, a greater impact on a worthy cause.
Implementing these strategies will no doubt take time, along with a concerted effort. But, when it comes down to it, streamlining volunteer management is an important investment that can reap significant rewards.
Interested in turning your volunteers into ambassadors? In this previously recorded webinar, MobileServe CEO Ben Reno-Weber outlines how to better engage your volunteers and have them become your biggest champions!
- Trends in Volunteer Management & Screening
- 7 Ways to Keep Volunteers Coming Back
- Hiring Volunteers: a 4-Step Process
Looking for a way to better track, engage, and celebrate your volunteers? MobileServe is an easy-to-use online platform and mobile app that can do all these things!