Social Entrepreneurship

Why is it so difficult to manage volunteers?

This week I taught my undergraduate students about volunteer management best practices.  I enjoyed hearing about their volunteer experiences and I was not surprised when some students explained how they had volunteered at well known organizations that were disorganized in their volunteer management practices.

The biggest issue I’ve encountered while working in nonprofits is the lack of planning for volunteer management.  Like the case with nonprofit operations in general, many nonprofits don’t make the time to strategicly plan their volunteer recruitment and retention efforts.  All volunteers should be managed just like another member of the staff and should be able to:

  1. Complete an volunteer application
  2. Receive a job description
  3. Be oriented and trained on the job
  4. Receive communication on a consistent basis from the staff and board
  5. Be evaluated and recognized for their efforts

I learned this the hard way t0o — its not “oh we need some volunteers this week so lets recruit them” but let’s plan in advance the volunteers we need this years, the skills we are looking for from those volunteers, and how we are going to recruit them.

One of the required readings for this section was the Strategic Volunteer Engagement Handbook. This helpful handbook lays out how nonprofits can effectively manage their volunteers.

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Heather Carpenter

Heather Carpenter

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