The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit
For any fundraiser, having a stable of dedicated, enthusiastic volunteers is a wonderful thing. But at times, managing those volunteers can be a challenge. In an Aug. 19 VolunteerMatch webinar, The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit, Manager of Volunteer Programs Jennifer Bennett and Director of Strategic Initiatives Sarah Christian outlined some best practices for managing volunteers.
Successful program characteristics
Bennett kicked things off by laying out successful volunteer program characteristics. “You will all have your own goals with volunteers,” she said. “A successful program allows you and your volunteers to reach those goals.”
Bennett said successful program characteristics apply and integrate these qualities:
- Knowing your volunteers — initially and ongoing. Learn about them and continue to communicate with them.
- Completing your due diligence. Do your homework to assess risk management, and also get the chance to better know and understand prospective volunteers.
- Making sure you’re all on the same page. “Does everyone — volunteers, staff, clients — know what’s expected of them? Is it written down? Has everyone agreed to follow the rules?” Bennett asked.
Common program components
Christian then went into further detail on common volunteer program components, providing this disclaimer: “You may not need every one of these components, but each component should be evaluated regularly.”
- Job descriptions. “They’re important for everyone,” Christian said. They must be well-thought-out, detailed and comprehensive so volunteers know exactly what you expect from them.
- Recruitment plan. Where and when can you find potential volunteers, but most importantly, why? You must find volunteers who share the same passion for your mission. Target messages for each channel, and institute marketing and communications best practices.
- Application. Get all the relevant information — contact information, etc. But also start to get to know your volunteers better, i.e., “Why do you want to volunteer at the library?”
- Interview. When interviewing volunteers, build on the application questions. Ask about skills, interests, experience, and then determine if they fit your organization.
- Orientation. Don’t overlook orientation for new volunteers. Use it as an opportunity to share what you do and why you do it. Introduce the culture, policies, procedures, etc.
- Training. Ask what volunteers need to know to be successful, Christian said, and then make sure to provide them with those tools.
- Non-disclosure agreement. Should cover work product, equipment and sensitive information.
- Background check. A must for organizations that work with at-risk populations such as children and the elderly, as well as for positions with access to sensitive information.
- Reference check. “Consider asking for volunteering references, as well as personal and/or professional references,” Christian advised.
- Policies and procedures handbook. Begin with applicable HR policies. Then determine what other policies need to be included — instances where things went wrong, conflict resolution, dismissal or termination procedures.
- Acknowledgment form. To acknowledge that they’ve received and read the handbook.
- Memorandum of understanding/agreement letter. Specific for each volunteer/volunteer position. Identifies the who, what, when and for how long. Use it to reinforce the most important policies and procedures.
To keep your volunteers, you must first understand why some leave and others stay. The reason is that different volunteers have different expectations based on: