How Can I Manage our Volunteers Without a Volunteer Manager? Help

August 13, 2015

Dear Rich,

Our nonprofit relies on volunteers, but we just can’t afford a professional volunteer coordinator. Sometimes we have volunteers show up and there’s no-one available to supervise them or the project isn’t ready, and they feel their time has been wasted. Staff have complained that the volunteers we have just aren’t right for the work that needs doing and a few have told me: “It would be quicker to do it myself.” Meanwhile, every corporate donor wants to send teams of employees and if we have to figure out another “volunteer day” mass project, my staff will either riot or quit. Help!

Dear Friend,

There are ways to recruit a volunteer coordinator without spending a lot of money. Some organizations RMA works with recruit Americorps volunteers to do the job as they have the time to get to know your organization and can help you set up a volunteer program for the next Americorps volunteer to build on. There are also senior citizen programs such as RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) where you might find an experienced volunteer with enough hours to devote to being a part-time volunteer coordinator – remember that a lot of the coordinating can be done from home. Churches and synagogues are also a good resource. They have pools of volunteers that you might be able to access through your board members.

If you are recruiting an extensive number of volunteers (such as more than 75-100) you might want to reassess your belief that you can’t afford a professional staff position. If volunteers aren’t properly recruited, effectively managed and supervised, and held accountable to complete their tasks, they can be a detriment rather than a benefit to the organization. As you have already noticed, poorly managed volunteers can create ill will and work against promoting the good work of the organization.

If you are going to rely on volunteers you need to get serious and put in the time and financial resources to make it work. Otherwise it’s better to get out of the business of using volunteers and try a different model. I suggest that you, and your board and staff, take the time to discuss why and if you really need volunteers. If you do decide to continue, it’s critical to make the necessary investment in an effective volunteer program – you will find that in the long run it pays dividends. Volunteers are the best recruiting ground and feeder system for a donor program. Well-respected and satisfied volunteers will become the best donors and fundraisers for the organization. As you noted, corporate donors want to involve their employees – think about the return on investment from a few satisfied businesses!

The following articles from the Rich Tips archive may help

The important point here is that if you want to continue to rely on volunteers you must have a person or persons responsible for them who is trained and willing to take the time to support them.

Good luck!


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