6 Considerations Toward Improving Volunteer Management

April 10, 2017       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many organizations. They advocate on behalf of your organization, give talent and resources, fill important gaps, and, in some cases, provide crucial services. With volunteers serving some many important functions, it is all the more important that organizations manage their volunteers properly.

    During their presentation, “Designing an Effective Volunteer Management System,” at the American Society of Association Executives’ Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, Fla., Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing LLC; Ann Turner, executive director of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science; Peter Houstle, CEO of Mariner Management and Marketing LLC; and Kevin Whorton, president of Whorton Marketing & Research discussed how to foster a mutually beneficial volunteer program. Among their recommendations were:

  • Design meaningful work. Think about how the role fits in the big picture, whether it fit the volunteers’ schedule, if it takes advantage of the skills of the volunteers, and whether it is appropriate to give a volunteer or whether it should be a hired job;
  • Strategize recruitment and selection. Figure out whether the role requires a selection criteria and who would make the selection. Decide what would happen if no potential volunteer fits the profile;
  • Determine what sorts or orientation and training are necessary. Consider how steep and long the learning curve might be and what needs to be taught. Figure out how well the system tracks volunteer turnover and brings newcomers up to speed;
  • Decide what sorts of management and mentorship are necessary. Decipher your preferred ratio of volunteers to supervisors, what sorts of training will be given, and how performance issues are to be addressed;
  • Plan how feedback will be delivered. Things to consider include who will assess volunteers, how often, the criteria of the assessments, and how underperformance is addressed; and,
  • Consider how volunteers will be acknowledged for their work. Determine whether it is best to acknowledge volunteers publicly or privately, how personalized to make acknowledgements, and how soon after performance such acknowledgements should take place.
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