Volunteers are a valuable part of any organization. They provide labor to accomplish many tasks that would otherwise cost precious funds. In addition, the people who volunteer at your organization bring invaluable outside perspectives that enrich your organizational culture.
In exchange, volunteers want to be treated like they are important parts of your team, just as if they were paid employees. Everyone has expectations when beginning a volunteer position. The understanding, meeting, and managing of those expectations will make the experience as rewarding as possible for both the volunteers and your organization.
Why Is It Important to Manage Volunteers’ Expectations and Responsibilities?
Think back to when you first began your current position. What did you expect from your employer? Many of the same things you expected then are what your volunteers expect now. It’s best to establish your expectations and your volunteers’ expectations early to avoid any misunderstandings and ensure a long and satisfying arrangement.
Managing your volunteers’ expectations is essential for a successful volunteer organization relationship. Volunteers may be spending their time with your organization for various reasons, whether for personal enrichment or a requirement. Still, there is one thing they all need: to feel valued. The value you make your volunteers feel has many benefits. It will keep them returning for more volunteer opportunities, spreading the word about your organization, and fulfilling the innate desire to make a difference.
Showing your volunteers that your organization values them can be as simple as managing their expectations with each assignment. Think of the volunteer position as a paid one. If you were applying for and signing on for a new job, you’d expect to know how you would be a good fit for the job and how your skills and experience fulfill the job description. These details help you understand your place in the organization and know what you will need to succeed there.
It’s the same for volunteers, and clarifying your expectations early in the process will help them manage their own. Volunteers who quickly understand their role in your organization feel valued and become invested in your organization’s success. These volunteers are spending their free time with you and providing valuable services that would otherwise require paying employees, so you owe it to them to make their experience fulfilling.
In exchange, they’ll help drive the personal and professional growth of your organization and the others working there. Issues can arise if you fail to manage your volunteers’ expectations. Because volunteers typically want to be treated as if their position is a job, they expect:
- Clear instructions
- To be treated with respect
- For their time to be used wisely
- A sense of appreciation from the organization
Without some of these basic expectations met, your volunteers will likely feel frustrated, and volunteer commitment will be negatively affected because of their frustration. Unmanaged expectations can lead to a lack of success for these volunteers and, by extension, lost potential for the whole organization.
The higher the level of volunteer satisfaction, the higher the volunteer retention rate. A high volunteer retention rate is critical because recruiting and training volunteers can be a time-consuming, costly, and sometimes frustrating task. Therefore, it’s best to do everything to avoid your organization wasting valuable time and resources recruiting brand-new volunteers and instead focus efforts on retaining the dedicated volunteers who are already with the organization.
How Do Volunteers’ Expectations Differ?
Volunteer expectations have shifted over time and are usually not the exact expectations you have for them. It’s best to remember that your volunteers are not paid employees, so they shouldn’t be given incredibly full schedules or complex tasks. However, they do expect to be respected as a paid employee would be. The more respected, appreciated, and understood your volunteers are, the more likely they will volunteer with you again.
Many people want to volunteer for organizations: young and old, those who are currently working, those who are retired. Children and young adults want to make a difference in others’ lives and start building professional experience. Older, retired people want to volunteer to give back to their communities and interact positively with others. The coronavirus has made some volunteer efforts more difficult, but people are more in need now than ever.
In addition, many people feel isolated as a result of the pandemic, and volunteering is a great way for them to socialize while making a difference. With the various groups of people volunteering today, it’s no wonder that expectations will differ for each group. Because of the current need for volunteers, it’s essential to understand how their expectations differ from your organization’s. Some general volunteer expectations include:
- A consistent and known schedule: When your organization schedules volunteers, you should understand how many hours your specific volunteers are willing to contribute, make them aware of their schedules, and keep the schedule consistent.
- Consistent communication: Keep your volunteers in the loop regarding when you need them, what you need from them, and how long you expect to need them.
- A job description and outlined expectations:Your volunteers, especially those not new to volunteering, will expect a job description when they sign up with your organization. They will wish to know the expectations for that position and what they need to accomplish. You do not want to be vague with your volunteers. You want to show them that you are organized!
- Feeling like their time is being used well: Assign jobs that fit your volunteers’ skills. You don’t want a former company executive to do menial work unless they want to. On the other hand, you wouldn’t expect a young volunteer to complete a job with advanced skills like heading a team. Keep the jobs within skill ranges, stay organized, and make the volunteers feel like they aren’t wasting their time volunteering for you.
- Feeling valued and recognized for their work: They are using their free time to help you. Your volunteers could be spending that free time with family, friends, relaxing, and so on. Ensure that your organization makes your volunteers feel valued and recognized so they want to volunteer again and encourage others to volunteer with you too.
Organizational Expectations of Volunteers
Just because volunteers are unpaid doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be expected to fulfill the requirements provided to them. Some general expectations organizations have for their volunteers include the following:
- Work within their area of expertise:Organizations expect volunteers to work within their areas of expertise and skill levels. Organizations should assign jobs to their volunteers that suit their skills and experience best. It’s reasonable for organizations to expect volunteers to be forthcoming about what that experience or skillset may be.
- Be respectful: Volunteers, like everyone else, should show a basic level of respect to whomever they interact with — however, not everyone does it. Being respectful and displaying a positive example of the organization is one of the most critical expectations an organization can have of its volunteers.
- Be friendly to all people: This is similar to being respectful to whomever the volunteer interacts with. The volunteer is the face of your organization, and as long as they are serving with you, they represent you to all the people they interact with. So they should be friendly and kind to their peers and the public.
- Keep information confidentialif necessary: Volunteers may have access to proprietary information that must be kept confidential. If this is the case with your organization, be sure to make that point clear with your volunteers. They will likely not be aware of what should and shouldn’t be kept confidential.
How to Set and Maintain Expectations With Volunteers
Without setting and maintaining expectations with volunteers, volunteering efforts within your organization will undoubtedly be difficult for everyone involved. Keep the organization running smoothly by avoiding employee misunderstandings.
Maintaining expectations is much easier when the expectations are made known to all parties at the beginning of their partnership. Your volunteers and staff will be happier if expectations aren’t made up on the spot or left to the volunteers to assume.
Some ways you can set and manage volunteer expectations include:
- Create a list of expectations for volunteers
- Prepare a list of job duties
- Set their schedule
- Open communication channels
Let’s learn more about each way your organization can easily set your volunteers’ expectations.
Create a List of Volunteer Expectations and Responsibilities
Create a clear list stating what your organization expects from its volunteers. There is no more straightforward way to set volunteer expectations and define responsibilities than to provide them with a list. This list can also include what they can expect from you — for example, see this list from Compassionate Action for Animals. This organization clearly states what they expect from their volunteers and what their volunteers can expect from them.
Prepare a List of Job Duties
Volunteers enjoy knowing what they’re going to be doing when they arrive at your organization. As mentioned before, volunteers expect that your organization is professional enough to have duties prepared and assigned when they arrive. Therefore, knowing their responsibilities upon arrival avoids any confusion. In addition, it outlines precisely what jobs they are expected to complete during their time.
Suppose your organization prefers to allow your volunteers to select their assigned job. In that case, it’s best to still have a list prepared with the jobs’ corresponding duties. That list will allow volunteers to make a decision quickly and save time and frustration.
Set Their Schedule
We live in a society that runs on schedules. When things go off-schedule, it seems to throw all things out of whack. Setting a schedule that aligns with their outside duties will make your volunteers happier and available for more events. Volunteers have schedules that they follow outside of your organization. Because of their outside schedules, volunteers expect to know when you need them. The best way to set your volunteers’ schedules is to ask them their availability. Once their availability is established, your organization can schedule your volunteers to best suit them and you.
Volgistics provides great scheduling software to create and share your volunteers’ schedules easily. The software includes customizable features to aid your organization and volunteer coordinators. Some of these features include:
- Repeating schedules
- Creating schedules with openings/available slots
- Viewing and printing schedules
- A volunteer self-service portal where they can access and manage their schedules
- Text and email schedule reminders
Open Communication Channels
Your organization should create open communication channels with your volunteers. The more precise you are about when their time is necessary, the easier it will be to plan around their volunteer time. Some volunteers are retired folks who enjoy having anything to fill their schedules. In contrast, others are younger and are studying in school or working full time.
Providing open communication channels is also essential when discussing job duties and any issues volunteers or volunteer coordinators may have. Your volunteers want to trust you, which you can help by establishing an open communication channel.
By sending text messages or emails with programs like Volgistics, communicating with your volunteers is so simple! With their easy-to-use automated system, your organization can choose if they want to contact all of your volunteers, a single volunteer, a volunteer coordinator, and more. In addition, volunteers can choose what text messages and emails they would like to receive.
Volgistics’ system is better than others available because your organization can track the delivery status to see which contact methods are valid. This system can also coordinate schedule changes and cancellations and message volunteers with specific qualifications for certain projects. This tool also helps you communicate with volunteers who are tasked with the same assignment, alerting them of alterations or weather-related issues to keep communication simple.
Additionally, with text and email software, you can fill volunteer positions in a pinch by having access to volunteer schedules and tagging them to notify them of new openings. This quick, easy method will help your volunteer pool stay organized and let you contact volunteers effectively when you need to.
Managing Volunteers and Expectations Is the Key to Success
Utilizing systems, having open communication, and providing volunteers with clear expectations of their position will make maintaining your expectations easier. Systems like Volgistics can be used to organize volunteers and logistics around their assignments. After establishing your expectations, providing your volunteers with them is essential. Further, ensuring your volunteers are aware of your expectations will help you to maintain the best and most dedicated people.
Your organization has many components to worry about when planning volunteer opportunities, so why should you worry about managing your volunteers, too?
Advanced Tactics for Managing Volunteer Commitments
Volgistics wants to help your organization take care of your volunteers and see you succeed! Volgistics volunteer management software was created using more than 30 years of volunteer management experience. The software provides features like volunteer tracking, scheduling software, email and text messaging options, document storage, and multi-site capabilities. Our clients include aquariums, libraries, hospice organizations, and zoos — any organization that has volunteers.
To help you get a better feel for our software, we offer a 30-day free trial that allows you to input your organization’s unique data and track your volunteers immediately. If you choose to continue using Volgistics, activating your account is simple and easy to do. You can also sign up for a live demonstration where you can experience a guided tour through the Volgistics system, ask questions, and look through the different features that fit your organization.
Contact us today to find out how Volgistics can help you and your volunteers.