Volunteer management is an essential aspect of your organization. As someone who has been both a manager of volunteers and a volunteer myself, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to value them. Creating a foundation built upon respect and positive reinforcement is the key to best supporting your charity’s public engagement efforts.
In my youth, I volunteered for walk-a-thons, and I remember the organization’s efficiency. Later, I managed a group of volunteers for a live event. As a volunteer leader, I most valued those who would pitch in as needed, while being savvy enough to identify the volunteers’ unique strengths to position them where they would best thrive. Managing different personalities is a strength, so anyone in a leadership capacity, overseeing various moving parts, is an art of tact.
Previously canvassing for charities and managing volunteers myself, these experiences taught me how to truly value a volunteer’s involvement. Reflecting now, as a volunteer grant writer, both the foundation and I have to be clear about our time allotted monthly toward the project. Together, we are clarifying the best practices to be both efficient and communicative toward success. The group of professionals that have come together, all playing to their strengths, are finding cohesion. And although we are virtual, and only have 5-10 hours to offer monthly, we are finding our footing. From my current and past experiences, I have learned some effective volunteer management strategies, which can help you to foster an environment of support and success.
Here are three best practices for volunteer management:
1. Establish Clear Communication Channels
Find a collective way to share information that works for all team members. Some great communication channels include:
- A cloud-based group chat like WhatsApp or Telegram. This is key if your volunteers and staff are located internationally.
- Concise emails for sharing important updates with the team. Refrain from creating lengthy email chains, as this can increase the likeliness of information being missed or overlooked.
- Volunteer management software to schedule volunteers, add incentives, and keep everyone on track. There are several free platforms available.
- Google Drive or Dropbox for storing any additional content. Google Workspace has live editing capabilities, so you can collectively revise content in real time with your volunteers. This is great for collaboration, especially when your volunteers are remote.
2. Streamline Processes
In tandem with the above, implement processes upfront with your volunteers to keep things organized. Once you have chosen your communication channel, create timelines and schedules to ensure that deadlines are met and events are a success.
Another valuable asset is to create a code of conduct or a volunteer handbook, so that everyone is aware upfront of their roles and responsibilities. This should be shared and signed during the onboarding process. This formalized outline of duties will be an excellent anchor for the volunteer’s involvement. Here is a sample template for a handbook from Volunteer Toronto. By implementing streamlined processes and proper timelines, tasks are completed more efficiently. Productivity and effective time management will show your volunteers that you respect their time and appreciate their involvement.
3. Build a Team
Volunteers are working out of the goodness of their hearts. They donate time and energy to help your worthy cause. Whether they are virtual or in-person, you want to be clear with their duties, motivate them, and thank them for their ongoing support. With virtual flexibility in the modern world, online platforms can reward volunteers. It can be a fun opportunity to help volunteers achieve milestones by incorporating games, social media connectivity, and more.
Highlight a volunteer of the month on socials as a way to boost morale. Create a digital badge for volunteers to share on their accounts, leveraging camaraderie for digital community building. There are so many marketing activities that you can initiate to make volunteers feel empowered, while cultivating an environment of support.
By incorporating these tips into your volunteer management strategy, you can ensure that your volunteers will continue supporting your organization, while feeling good doing so. They can work both virtually and in-person, while helping you to build a community around your organization. As both a volunteer and manager myself, I can confidently say that these small considerations can make a huge impact — on your organization and on the volunteers that support it. And as some final advice as a Canadian, you can never say thank you too many times.