Skip to content
Webinar: Volunteer Engagement: Reclaiming Community Roots | May 23rd @ 1pm EST | Free Registration
High Contrast

Blog Home Volunteer Management Handbook


Volunteer Management Handbook

Your Guide to Becoming a Volunteer Engagement Leader in 2024

Free program ROI Guide

Managing a volunteer program can be like navigating turbulent water - it's unpredictable, full of obstacles, and full of unexpected twists and turns. 

Even so, it's important to remember the immeasurable rewards that come with this job. Making a difference in people's lives is what motivates us to keep going. Our dedication and commitment change lives and make a positive difference in the world through this journey.

You're tasked not only with planning and execution but also with the monumental mission of inspiring and retaining a team who's there purely out of passion.

Our mission is to make your voyage smoother. We've woven together a tapestry of vital knowledge, real-world strategies, and time-tested practices in this comprehensive guide. 

This is your compass, designed to guide you confidently through the diverse terrains of volunteer management strategy.

Whether you're a seasoned captain or a fledgling explorer setting sail for the first time in the vast ocean of volunteer management, this book is your lifeline on how to manage volunteers. Embrace the journey, and discover the transformational power of effective volunteer leadership. 

We've left no stone unturned, so you're equipped to handle whatever lies ahead and lead your volunteers towards a brighter horizon.

Why Volunteer Management Matters

Running a volunteer organization successfully takes a lot of planning and management. Volunteer management involves ensuring volunteers fulfill their commitments, creating a positive volunteer experience, and tracking volunteer hours. 

Volunteer work may not involve money, but managing it still requires financial considerations. It's important for volunteer managers to ensure efficient operation of the organization without excessive financial strain, even if they don't focus on business metrics. 

Despite not having the primary goal of generating revenue, volunteer managers may still want to cultivate relationships with volunteers to potentially turn them into donors.

Instead, you need proper volunteer management. Without it, your organization may not be effective at all. Here are a few of the reasons you should consider optimizing your volunteer management.

Volunteer management process chart explaining the 5 steps of volunteer management process


Volunteer work can take a lot of time and resources. When you’re managing volunteers, the required time and resources increase exponentially. Without proper management, your productivity may suffer.

Effective volunteer management, on the other hand, fosters a collaborative and efficient atmosphere. One of the key advantages is the simplified approach to volunteer coordination, making it easier to organize and carry out tasks smoothly.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Volunteer Program ROI Guide

Community Impact

Volunteer management statistics about volunteering in America by census Americorps

Source: Census , 2023

A huge part of any volunteer work is the effect it has on people. If your organization isn't able to effectively deliver on its mission, it will be difficult to justify asking for donations and growing your programs.

Effective volunteer management can help avoid that possibility. It lets you organize volunteers and focus their efforts, as well as measure and analyze the effectiveness of those efforts.

Stakeholder Engagement

Depending on how your volunteer organization runs, stakeholders (board members, donors, Executive Directors, etc.) might have a lot of influence. If that’s the case, you know how important tracking and reporting on volunteer impact is to them. It would be hard to justify investing in your volunteer organization otherwise.

Volunteer management helps you stay organized and report accurate data to stakeholders. When they have such a transparent view of your operations, they’re more likely to stay engaged and interested in your organization.

To summarize, you need to consider stepping up your volunteer management because it:

  • Increases productivity by implementing proper volunteer management practices streamlines organization and implementation, resulting in a productivity boost.
  • Enhances community impact, leading to a more significant and positive impact on the community; and
  • Engages stakeholders, fostering their engagement and cultivating their interest in your organization.

Volunteer Engagement Challenges

  • Volunteer Turnover:It's hard to serve your community well when there's a lot of turnover. Burnout or unpleasant experiences are key reasons behind volunteer attrition. By addressing these challenges, successful volunteer management programs prioritize volunteer retention. Learn how to cultivate a supportive environment and keep volunteers around.
  • Keeping Volunteers Engaged Throughout the Year=:Volunteer participation spikes during holidays and summer breaks. Maintaining a steady flow of volunteers is tough. Discover how to engage and motivate volunteers beyond peak times. Boost your volunteer base's potential and ensure ongoing engagement with these innovative approaches.
  • Enlisting the Next Generation of Volunteers : Organizations and communities benefit from engaging volunteers from diverse backgrounds. However, volunteers younger than 30 can be tricky to attract due to their busy schedules and digital inclinations. Your outreach strategies should reflect the preferences and values of the next generation if you want to inspire them. Learn how to connect with digitally-inclined Gen Z volunteers and unlock their potential by harnessing the power of digital platforms.
  • Re-Engaging Inactive Volunteers : New volunteers often fade away after a few months. Instead of giving up on inactive volunteers, re-engage them. You can get their attention back with practice and dedication. Find out how to get in touch with inactive volunteers and tap into their potential.

Keys to Successful Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer recruitment is unique in how rewarding and how difficult it can be. The payoff is worth it for you and the volunteers you recruit, but that only comes with successful recruitment. Part of the problem is that recruitment isn’t a one-time thing—it’s a constant process.

These are the keys to successful volunteer recruitment :

  • Define your recruitment strategy: Develop a clear and comprehensive plan for attracting volunteers that aligns with your organization's goals and needs.
  • Highlight your organization's value: Emphasize the unique benefits and opportunities your organization offers to make volunteering appealing.
  • Utilize multiple recruitment strategies: Explore various approaches such as social media campaigns, community partnerships, targeted outreach, and volunteer fairs.
  • Evaluate and adapt: Continuously assess the effectiveness of your recruitment strategies and make adjustments to attract a diverse pool of volunteers.

Let’s take for example, an organization successfully implemented a targeted recruitment strategy. They identified specific skills required for their upcoming project and reached out to professional organizations and industry groups related to those skills. 

By showcasing the project's significance and the impact volunteers could make, they attracted highly skilled volunteers from the target audience, resulting in a successful project completion and valuable connections for future collaborations.

Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

When you try to recruit a volunteer, you have to keep one thing in mind: volunteers are donating their time and energy to you. They have countless other options, some of them paid, so you have to figure out how to make your opportunity the most appealing.

From figuring out what your organization needs to carrying out social media campaigns, you can choose from a variety of strategies. If you’re ready to implement a new volunteer recruitment strategy, it might be time to take a more detailed look .

Case Study

In The Volunteer Management Program , United Way Centraide looked into the effectiveness of volunteer management strategy . Aside from a 9% increase in volunteers in just one year, the program also relieved stress and left volunteers more satisfied with their work.


 Download the free Volunteer Program ROI Guide!


The Art of Supervising Volunteers

Volunteer management supervising volunteer goals, roles, expectations, abilities, and time

Source: VolunteerPro

Volunteer work doesn’t stop at recruitment. Some of the biggest challenges come after your organization is already full of volunteers. That’s when you have to focus on supervision, especially if you want your volunteers to be satisfied and effective.

So it follows that you need a good supervisor—one that can not only manage but also lead volunteers. Without one, your volunteers may move on to greener pastures. Before you hire a dedicated volunteer leader or step up to the role, here’s some key information about volunteer supervision.

Volunteer Supervision Tips

A good volunteer leader will figure out how everyone will communicate and set expectations for that communication. This includes defining communication channels and creating a plan. Training is also important, and a volunteer leader should ensure every new volunteer is onboarded and oriented properly before beginning work.

Volunteer supervision is a full-time job, though, and you may need more than a few tips. Do some research to figure out exactly how you’ll supervise volunteers in your organization.

Ensuring Volunteer Engagement

Your volunteers are only as good as their engagement. What that means is a bored or discouraged volunteer will, at best, deliver low-quality impact . In the worst cases, disengaged volunteers will leave your organization and even have negative things to say.

Once again, this often requires a strategy. Your strategy will depend on how you communicate with, train, and retain volunteers. If you’d like to get a better idea of how to keep volunteers engaged , you can find plenty of information online.

Develop your volunteer engagement strategy with these solutions:

  1. Match their interests and skills: Get to know your volunteers' preferences and skills so you can match them with the right opportunities. Send them personalized opportunity recommendations based on their preferences - volunteer management software captures volunteer preferences and automates recommendations, so they're more likely to enjoy and succeed in their roles. 
  2. Make your training better: Volunteers who are prepared are happier volunteers! The more engaging volunteer training you provide, the more likely you are to keep volunteers and get them engaged.  >
  3. Make leadership opportunities: There are times when your volunteers go above and beyond. Get your most passionate supporters to share their voices. Create leadership roles, like supervising a shift. You can even invite loyal participants to join your board. Your long-term volunteers will love these opportunities.
  4. Make volunteering fun: Gamifying volunteering will not only motivate them to keep supporting your cause, but also show them how much you appreciate their hard work. Engage your employees with fun incentives and healthy competition.
  5. Ask for feedback: Don't forget to ask for feedback from your volunteers. Many of them have a lot of insight because they're on the ground. You'll have the most important voices in the room with a simple volunteer survey. It's time to put your volunteers' ideas into action! 

Showing Appreciation to Volunteers

Everyone needs to feel appreciated, and volunteers are at the top of that list. Unappreciated volunteers may leave your organization, unfortunately. So your best bet is to be proactive and show appreciation to your volunteers from the start.

You could provide gifts or even heartfelt gratitude. Gratitude is key in volunteer work, so you should look toward building a culture of gratitude in your organization. There’s a bit more to it than saying thank you, but you can find out more as your volunteers achieve more.

For example, a charity implemented a volunteer appreciation program to recognize and celebrate the contributions of their volunteers. They organized an annual volunteer recognition event where volunteers were honored with certificates of appreciation, personalized thank-you notes, and public acknowledgment of their achievements. 

The program not only boosted volunteer morale and retention but also attracted new volunteers who were inspired by the positive volunteer culture.

When you're recognizing your supporters, consider these things: 

  • Understanding the impact of volunteers: How many hours do your volunteers put in? Do your volunteers know how many hours they've put in? Having this information is critical to really recognizing each volunteer's contribution, but most organizations don't have the tools or means to do it.
  • Recognizing volunteers in unique ways: Volunteer gifts like branded pens and plastic sunglasses are okay. There are tons of other ways to show your volunteers you appreciate them. 
  • Budgeting for appreciation gifts: Some programs just can't afford lavish volunteer gifts and galas for their volunteers. Here are some creative appreciation ideas that won't break the bank. Check them out below…

1) Get Creative. You don't have to spend a lot on meaningful gifts. Check out these unique, inexpensive volunteer appreciation gift ideas . We don't do boring, one-size-fits-all gifts! Our list has something for everyone.

2) A simple "thank you" goes a long way.  Saying thanks at the end of every shift makes volunteers feel appreciated. Get your CEO or board to write a thank you letter to volunteers and donors after a big fundraising push or seasonal campaign.

3) Share Their Impact. Show your volunteers how they've made a difference. Give volunteers a resume so they can act as proof at work or school. You'll need a way to track your volunteers' impact and create live reports. 

The Importance of Tracking Volunteer Hours

Every organization has to record its activity, even when involved in volunteer work. This is important for the organization, as it gives insight into impact and effectiveness. But it’s also crucial for volunteers themselves, like when they need hour submissions approved. 

Here’s a list of the reasons why tracking volunteer hours is important:

  • Recording volunteer hours is essential for all organizations, even those involved in volunteer work, as it provides valuable insights into the organization's impact and effectiveness.
  • Tracking volunteer hours is crucial for volunteers, especially when they need their hour submissions approved.
  • It allows organizations to have a clear record of volunteer contributions and measure the impact of their volunteer programs.
  • Tracking volunteer hours helps evaluate the effectiveness of volunteer efforts and plan future initiatives.
  • It enables organizations to demonstrate accountability and transparency to stakeholders, donors, and funding agencies.

6 volunteer management and program trends on the importance of tracking volunteer hours and the impact on applying for grants

Volunteer Hour Tracking Tools

Software and tools can make volunteer tracking much easier and streamlined. For example, Clockify is a free time tracker that you can use online or with a timer. Alternatively, there’s Track It Forward, which lets volunteers track their own hours.

Rosterfy provides an entire volunteer management platform that also tracks volunteer hours. If you prefer simple interfaces that work without much finesse, Volunteer Hub is a straightforward volunteer hour tracking tool.

Galaxy Digital also provides a volunteer management platform that doubles as an hour tracker. This software also goes a step further with its reporting and validation features. If you’re still not sure how you want to track your volunteer hours, you have plenty of options to choose from.

Get the free Volunteer Program ROI Guide!

Developing and Growing Your Volunteer Program

Starting a volunteer program can be a difficult but worthwhile endeavor. There are so many considerations to make, from your goals to your funding. So how will you raise funds? Do you have a potential corporate partnership lined up? What kind of technology will you leverage to grow your program?

These are only a few of the questions you need to ask, but they’re all of equal importance. When you’re ready to start your volunteer program, make sure you take the right considerations into account.

Quick Solutions for Growing Your Volunteer Program

  • Make your volunteer program stand out: You can't underestimate the value of your volunteers. That's why they need good management-which means resources. Get funding and buy-in for your volunteer program by advocating. Cite this article on the benefits and value of volunteer programs. 
  • Think outside the box: Volunteer management costs can be covered by selling branded merchandise or converting volunteers into donors.
  • Build your network: You'll need to tap into your community network if you want to grow your volunteer program. It's certainly a good idea to encourage word-of-mouth advertising. Explore Google Ad Grants to advertise your program, and leverage corporate philanthropy with your existing partners.
  • Don't be afraid to scale up: To meet the growing needs of your community, you need to increase your return on investment. Programs can recruit and manage more volunteers with technology like volunteer management software.

Volunteer Management in a Digital World

As the world becomes more digital, so does volunteer work. That poses its own challenges, but the good news is you can also conduct volunteer management in a digital environment. Whether you want to save time or get more insight into your impact, digital volunteer management tools can help.

Professional Development for Volunteers

Passion is a prerequisite for an effective volunteer. That can take anyone far in an organization, but nothing is a substitute for skills and experience. Think about it: your organization could get stuck at a standstill if your volunteers never develop more skills.

That’s where continuous learning comes into play. If you invest in professional development for your volunteers, you can potentially end up with more high-achieving volunteers and volunteers that can take on more responsibility. That can make your organization run more smoothly and have a bigger impact. As your volunteer organization grows, make sure your volunteers can grow with it!

Need to measure your program's ROI? Get the free resource >>

Sneak Peek Into Best Practices

Running and managing a volunteer organization requires unique knowledge and skills. If you’re just getting started, that might feel overwhelming. Even if you have management experience, volunteer management can throw you for a loop.

To avoid that, learn some of the best practices of the industry. Those best practices range from using a volunteer management platform to tracking volunteer engagement. If you want to learn more about volunteer management best practices, you can find some here .

Manage Your Volunteer Organization

As you can see, volunteer management is an important and complex process. That doesn’t mean it’s hard, though, and it’s necessary if you want your volunteer organization to succeed. After all, your organization is only as good as its volunteers.

This article should have provided a quick rundown of volunteer management, but check out our blog for plenty more about where that came from.

Investing in Volunteer Management Software

Volunteer management is all about time. Just ask any volunteer manager: they spend their days doing tasks and processes that make the organization run. That can cause a time crunch. Money is time, so a little investment can yield a lot.

That's why volunteer management software is so important. Sure, it's an investment, but you can't really buy more time. Consider investing in volunteer management software . It's worth it.

4 reasons why volunteer programs should invest in volunteer management and the importance of volunteers

Starting a Volunteer Program

Starting out? Here's everything you need to know about starting a volunteer program.

Until then, here's how to start a volunteer program in 6 steps:

  1. Identify Your Community’s Needs
  2. Understand Your Organization’s Volunteer Needs
  3. Give Your Volunteer Program a Creative Name
  4. Write a Mission Statement
  5. Determine Resources and Funding
  6. Formulate a Strategic Plan

Need to measure your program's ROI? Get the free resource >>

Resources for Managing Volunteers in a Digital World

Volunteer management has changed a lot in the past decade. We already know: the future is digital.

We've compiled some must-have resources and further reading so you can manage volunteers online:

Professional Development for Volunteer Leaders

Are you ready to advance your volunteer management career? Here are some resources to keep learning: 

You'll find everything you need to manage your volunteers well and grow your program here. Check out our blog for more volunteer management ideas.

Hope this was helpful!

We've shared the navigational tools you'll need to steer your volunteer program to success. Armed with this wisdom, you're not just managing a group of individuals, you're leading a passionate force united by a shared purpose. 

Your journey may be challenging, but remember, every great voyage tests the resilience of its crew. With this guide, you're prepared to weather the storms, harness the winds of change, and chart a course towards triumph. 

The impact you create together with your volunteers will ripple outwards, making a difference in your community and beyond. So here's to your journey as a volunteer leader – may it be filled with inspiration, empowerment, and enduring success.


Trusted by thousands of amazing volunteer leaders.

Volunteer Management Solutions for Every Organization

Volunteer program tools for any organization, program size, and budget. Find your perfect solution today.


Find the Right SoftwareGet a Free Demo