How to Manage Volunteers

August 25, 2013

Volunteer management is a necessary component of all volunteer programs. Your goal should be to create a rewarding volunteer experience that is educational, productive and beneficial for both the organization and the individual.

Start on the right foot. Training and orientation are a great way to welcome new volunteers and make them feel like part of a team. An instructional volunteer training session should present an overview of expectations for volunteers and provide them with the information they need to succeed. Draft a volunteer manual that clearly defines all procedures in writing and use it as an outline for the training session. Provide volunteers with other helpful materials like brochures and contact lists. Formally introduce volunteers to members of the organization and the board and indicate names, positions and departments.

Create a schedule. It is important to accommodate volunteers’ availability to avoid scheduling conflicts. Finish the schedule a week or two in advance and post it on the same day every week in a section of the office where everyone can see it. Volunteers should know to check the schedule regularly for changes, but you can also contact them. Block scheduling is extremely practical and allows volunteers to work the same shifts every week.

Be prepared for contingencies. At times, a volunteer may not be able to show up for a shift. The person or department who makes the schedule should also be responsible for resolving these matters. Volunteers should know whom to contact and should be encouraged to call as soon as scheduling issues arise.

Keep volunteers busy.
Ongoing supervision will ensure that volunteers are contributing to the organization. If the workload is substantive, volunteers will stay busy and engaged. Management should constantly assess projects and volunteer performance in order to maximize volunteers’ efforts.

Evaluate to determine successfulness. Both the administration and volunteers should be involved in evaluating your volunteer program. Draft questionnaires that address strengths and weaknesses of the program and have volunteers fill them out anonymously. Honest feedback can be extremely helpful for evaluating the program.

Recognize your volunteers.
Volunteers want to know that their time and services are valuable. Recognition of volunteers’ work is a great way to retain volunteers and cultivate lasting relationships. Words of praise and thank you notes are simple (and inexpensive) ways to express gratitude and appreciation.

Effective volunteer management creates a feeling that everyone is working together to advance the mission. If an organization is willing to invest in a volunteer program and support all individuals involved, the experience can be extremely rewarding.

TAKE NOTE: This is the second half of a two-part discussion on best practices for nonprofit organizations wishing to implement a volunteer program. The previous post focused on the process of recruiting volunteers.

Originally Posted: August 25,2008 on


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