I recently had the opportunity to present a workshop for a group of new managers of volunteers. I only had five hours with them to share the most basic topics in volunteer management. It’s never easy to decide on what to say, but here are the points I never leave out:
1 – Volunteers are people. They are just as reliable and trustworthy as staff. They aren’t “just” volunteers. Make yourself a promise to never use language that would suggest volunteers are second rate.
2 – You don’t always need to say “yes”. We’re not doing our organizations or our volunteers any favours by accepting anyone and everyone, squeezing people into roles that don’t suit them. Best to be thoughtful and consider each volunteer carefully and individually.
3 – Volunteer Motivation. Here’s my take on how to retain volunteers – match volunteer motivations and expectations with the experience they have as they volunteer in your organization.
4 – Volunteers deserve feedback. Give performance feedback often. Every volunteer deserves to know how well they are doing and where they can improve.
5 – Planning is an investment. Take the time to build an infrastructure in your organization to support volunteers. I imagine it’s like becoming a new parent who spends months decorating a nursery and buying tiny clothes. To the new arrival they say “we’ve hoped for you, we’ve planned for you and we welcome you”.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about volunteer management? What are some of the important lessons you’ve learned along the way?
– Janet Burstall, Volunteer Calgary’s Community Development Manager