Volunteer management can be a juggling act with many moving parts. People are always looking for ways to improve and refine their management style to accomplish their team’s goals. Since about 80% of nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers to keep operations running, it is important for managers to understand how to handle and oversee their teams effectively.
Learn about volunteer management best practices and more.
What Is Volunteer Management?
Volunteer management refers to a nonprofit organization’s approach to utilizing volunteers. It is necessary to create systems for managing the people at every stage of the volunteer lifecycle, from recruiting to retaining to off-boarding. Many nonprofits appoint a designated person to oversee volunteer efforts and ensure their organization makes the most of its time and resources.
Proper volunteer management can transform and empower your mission by doing the following:
- Boosting volunteer engagement
- Cultivating meaningful relationships
- Increasing revenue
It is important because nonprofits that ignore volunteer management best practices can often find themselves disorganized and unprepared for ongoing volunteer opportunities.
Types of Nonprofits and Their Volunteer Management Needs
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notes there are approximately 29 classifications of nonprofits in the United States. Here are some of the most common types of nonprofit organizations and their primary volunteer management needs:
- Animal rescues and pet shelters: These kinds of organizations require their staff to conduct a variety of daily routines, from cleaning cages to walking dogs.
- Community outreach: Nonprofits focused on bettering the community rely on local residents to become volunteers.
- Food banks: Food-justice nonprofits have the responsibility of managing fluctuating donations and scheduling volunteer shifts.
- Healthcare, hospices, and palliative care: Many facets of health services operations benefit from volunteer work that requires in-depth screenings and documentation.
- Museums and education nonprofits: There are numerous volunteer opportunities at these types of nonprofits, particularly teaching positions.
- Veterans’ services: Nonprofits devoted to these services have to juggle numerous specialties, from housing to job training.
Types of Volunteers
Because there are so many diverse volunteering opportunities, there are also different types of volunteers, including the following:
- Corporate volunteers: Employee groups can benefit from volunteering opportunities that help uplift the local community and foster better relationships between co-workers.
- Mentorship: This type of volunteering refers to long-term relationship building, typically for professional or youth development.
- Pro-bono work: Work that requires specific certifications or trade and is offered free of charge. This type of volunteer often relies on volunteer management to facilitate the work.
- Virtual volunteers: Digital volunteers can perform volunteer work they can complete remotely.
- Target demographic volunteers: These volunteers help specific groups, namely youth populations or retirement communities.
There are a number of volunteer roles that people can step into. With so many kinds of nonprofits and types of volunteers, management is essential to keep operations running smoothly.
What a Volunteer Manager Does in an Organization
A volunteer manager has an important role with many responsibilities regarding the volunteers and the organization they work with. Individuals in this position are responsible for the following:
- Creating and implementing a strategic volunteering plan
- Crafting an organizational structure for nonprofit volunteers
- Monitoring the entirety of the volunteer lifecycle
Managers help keep volunteer programs staffed and running smoothly. They ensure they meet the group’s overall mission and objectives through their volunteer coordination and oversight. They are also largely responsible for the volunteer program’s community engagement.
The Key Elements of Volunteer Management
There are a few key elements of managing the volunteer lifecycle, including the following:
Nonprofit organizations can use various methods to recruit volunteers, such as:
- Social media networks
- Community boards
- Target demographic partnerships
- Online directories
- Their website
Recruiting the right volunteers is not as simple as collecting names on a signup sheet. Many missions require an application process that involves background checks and placement interviews. Some recruiting efforts also include health screenings.
Two major parts of effective volunteer management are communication and engagement. There are numerous moving parts regarding volunteer programs. Proper communication allows everyone to stay informed and on the same page.
Communication is the cornerstone of the following responsibilities:
- Scheduling volunteers
- Sharing opportunities
- Confirming commitments
- Giving updates
- Giving and receiving feedback
Volunteer retention is a challenge for every nonprofit organization. There needs to be a balance between recruiting efforts and persuading volunteers to come back time and time again. To enhance your team’s loyalty and commitment, there are a few things you can do:
- Offering recognition for persons who go above and beyond to support your mission
- Always being gracious and saying thanks to volunteers
- Balancing the hard work with fun
- Tracking volunteer service hours for credit
Volunteer Tracking and Recognition
Another key element of volunteer management is tracking and recognition. Tracking volunteer hours allows managers to do the following:
- Categorize commitment: In addition to tracking hours, tracking volunteer activities can help managers determine your program’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Create volunteer reports: It is important for volunteer organizations to have a system for transforming data about their volunteers into itemized reports that help with tasks ranging from delegation to creating performance reviews.
- Celebrate and recognize service: Tracking allows managers to identify dedicated volunteers so they can honor them for their commitment and hard work.
Volunteer Impact Analysis
Volunteer managers can shed light on the accomplishments and dedication of volunteers with a volunteer impact report. These reports can share valuable information, such as:
- Service hours
- Volunteer categories
- Financial contributions
- Goals and accomplishments
These logistical insights help determine important volunteer metrics like the value of volunteer hours, which research estimates to equal $29.95 per hour in 2022. It is also useful in preparing grant proposals and ensuring volunteer compliance with important protocols.
Volunteer Management Trends
There are some recent trends in volunteer management any organization that plans to utilize volunteers should know about, including the following:
Volunteers Require More Flexibility
Over the last few years, workers have become more particular about their jobs and schedules. While some people turned to remote work, others left their jobs entirely in pursuit of better options.
While volunteering isn’t the same as a day job, many organizations are realizing that if they want to get more volunteers, they’re going to have to offer flexible opportunities. Shorter volunteering shifts and online opportunities can help accommodate more people’s schedules.
Ongoing Engagement Is Key to Volunteer Retention
Why is volunteer engagement important? It encourages managers to create more meaningful connections with their volunteers. Engagement keeps people motivated and feeling like they are part of a bigger mission. Without it, you risk having volunteers that do not feel connected to their work, leading to higher turnover rates.
Technology Is Streamlining Volunteer Management
Volunteer management software can positively transform your organization’s operations. It can take a huge weight off your manager’s shoulders by handling your volunteer logistics, from recruiting to tracking to communicating with your team.
Improve Volunteer Management With Software That Works for You
Volgistics serves over 5,000 organizations and helps track over 6 million volunteers with its nonprofit logistics software — and that’s only the beginning. We want to make volunteer managers’ roles more streamlined, simple, and efficient through our user-friendly software so you can focus on what really matters — living out your organization’s mission.