Why be a Manager of Volunteers?

I’m thinking about how I got here.

Like many of you, I was a “manager of volunteers” before I ever got paid to do it, or had ever heard the title! I was the president of a small and completely volunteer-run organization and only in retrospect can I see that a large part of my work was spent managing volunteers.

There were so many things I loved about it. I’ll tell you about two things. The first – I felt so privileged to be working with a whole team of people so dedicated to the same cause I was. I could throw around some buzzwords here like “synergy” and “effective teams” but it was something simplistic and I’d say more profound. It was the dedication we felt and the strength of that common goal that brought us together. We really worked well together and were able to accomplish so much.

The second thing was how much I enjoyed motivating and showing appreciation to these volunteers. It came naturally and it felt great to celebrate the work of the individuals giving their time. It never involved trinkets or even parties, it was just those personal opportunities to talk about the impact that the volunteer was having and to share in how excited and satisfied they were in their work.

In my present work as a manager of volunteers, I struggle to hold onto my first loves in volunteer management. We create formal systems to make sure people are treated fairly and we have policy and procedure to guide us along. They are useful and have their place, but I don’t want to forget why I chose this career and I certainly never want to lose the human connection to the volunteers I am so privileged to work with.

What do you absolutely love about your job as a manager of volunteers? What keeps you coming to work every day? What inspired you when you first started?

Janet Burstall, Community Development Manager, Volunteer Calgary

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About Propellus

Propellus is a non-profit organization that has been empowering organizations since 1955. Through a dynamic range of consulting, training and member services, it helps organizations envision and realize new paths, practices and possibilities. Propellus guides, mentors and educates clients, arming them with tools and resources to help boost organizational effectiveness. Propellus strengthens organizations; in doing so, it leads the way toward building thriving communities.
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2 Responses to Why be a Manager of Volunteers?

  1. Kali says:

    I love that volunteers are there because they want to be and they want to help. In my experience managing people in general, this makes all the difference! Volunteers care about what they are doing because it is rewarding to them for personal reasons and I think it is so powerful to be working with people who are already invested in the work they are doing. There isn’t too much “selling” the position or creating buy-in like you may have to with an employee, so you can spend more of your time innovating, learning, making an impact and celebrating success!

  2. Janet says:

    Thanks for your comment, Kali! The important exchange of learning, innovating and making a difference really leads to successful volunteer engagement!

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