Volunteer Management

Strength In Numbers
Do you feel like an abundance of ideas and projects, combined with limited time and staff, are causing rough currents threatening to capsize you and your efforts to keep your organization afloat? If so, consider recruiting and utilizing volunteers to help accomplish your goals. Volunteers offer a wide range of ideas, abilities, and backgrounds. They provide the extra support to help you fulfill your mission, thus propelling your organization forward. Volunteers can assist with projects including mailings, streambank restorations, water quality monitoring, filing, trail maintenance, and grant writing.

Getting Started

There are five main components to a successful volunteer management program – project identification, recruitment, retention, recognition, and internal systems. To begin with project identification, compile a list of current projects and determine their suitability for volunteers. Use this list to decide where and how volunteers can help. Then, develop volunteer job descriptions. This allows staff to thoroughly consider and plan how they can use volunteers in a meaningful way. The job description also presents the volunteers with clear expectations of their work.

The key to successful recruitment is to communicate your need for volunteers while generating interest in your organization and its work. Contact schools, community groups, senior centers, and advertise in your newsletter, website, and local papers. Once you have a group of committed volunteers, remember that they give up one of their most valuable assets – time – to work at your organization. Saying thank you and recognizing their hard work is extremely important! Verbally thank them, write thank you letters, and/or hold volunteer recognition events throughout the year. Also remember that a well run volunteer management program considers the organization’s needs as well as the needs of the volunteer. Improve retention by matching a volunteer’s interests and abilities with the right job. Finally, develop a database to organize volunteer contact information and interests. Use this database to recruit volunteers for new projects.

 Helpful Hintshelpful_hint

Volunteers are an invaluable resource to any organization. Therefore, providing training and recognition for their work is vital to ensuring their continued support. Ask current volunteers for feedback on job descriptions, procedures, communication with staff, and recognition. Use their responses to improve your program and volunteer retention. To assist with recruitment, create a volunteer profile form to obtain a volunteer’s contact information and interests. Then, interview prospective volunteers to get a better feel for how they can fit into your organization.

Further Resources

Publications

Need to Know Basics for Managing Volunteers, from the Maine Commission for Community Service. Provides guidelines for developing a successful volunteer program.
23 Ways to Say Thank You, from USEPA’s The Volunteer Monitor. Provides 23 ways to thank and recognize your volunteers.

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