Managing Volunteers

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Having supports in place for your volunteers is critical. The job description and upfront “fit” is important, but so is helping people adjust once they join the organization. Decide who within your agency is going to manage the volunteers, and make sure they are warmly welcomed. Careful management will ensure you retain the volunteers you’ve recruited and utilize them to their potential. By ensuring your volunteers feel supported and guided, especially in the beginning, you can boost retention rates. Additionally, if your volunteers feel well cared for, they may recommend your group to their friends, generating an even larger volunteer pool from which you can recruit.

Plan to conduct an orientation once a volunteer has signed on, and assign a staff contact person to oversee the development of each new volunteer.

Orientation allows the new volunteer to meet the team and learn more about the agency and its work. Orientation is also a good time to explain the expectations, policies, and procedures of the program. The appointed staff contact person can make sure the new volunteer has enough to do, adequate supervision, and enough support to understand both what to do and how to do it. Ideally, staff contacts should have training in best practices of volunteer management.

Draft a written manual on the programs and policies of your agency.

Some important areas you may want to address include:

  • Welcome message: What is your organization’s vision, mission, and history? What does it mean to have a volunteer at your organization?
  • Products and services: What products, programs, and services do you offer, and what is the main goal of each?
  • Privacy policy: How, if at all, will volunteer names and information be shared?
  • Criminal background checks: Will they be required?
  • Supervision:  Who supervises each volunteer?  What support will he/she provide?  Who will provide feedback on volunteer performance?  How often?  In what format?
  • Benefits:  What can volunteers expect to get out of their commitment?  This can be as simple as personal growth and community involvement, or as tangible as networking opportunities and professional development via conferences and external trainings.
  • Dismissal and resignation:  Under what circumstances would a volunteer be dismissed?  How much notice do you like volunteers to give before resigning?  Will an exit interview or evaluation be conducted?
  • Other legal matters:  Policies on compensation and gifts; confidentiality policies; information on the organization’s insurance; whether a volunteer is permitted, as a representative of your organization, to speak to a member of the media; etc.
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Calculate the value of your volunteers.

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