Home » Volunteer Management: 10 Best Practices to Drive Success
Some of our community’s most impactful initiatives rely on volunteers, and it’s Volunteer Managers leading the charge in organizing these programs. Managing volunteers is a balancing act of time and resources. And between recruiting, scheduling, and engaging supporters, little time is often left for much else, like keeping up with volunteer management best practices.
But updating your volunteer management strategy is essential to your program’s growth. So, we’ve compiled these ten fresh best practices for the modern volunteer program (no stale tips or tricks, here!).
Before we jump into our top volunteer management best practices, here’s a refresher on need-to-know basics:
Volunteer management encompasses the steps, actions, and tools you’ll need to:
Successful volunteer management takes careful planning, and any organization with a volunteer program can benefit from implementing a volunteer management strategy. When volunteers are managed effectively, organizations build capacity and even improve return on investment.
Volunteer Managers wear many hats, and they’re often involved in all steps of the volunteer management process. In addition to overseeing the selection, training, and supervision of volunteers, Volunteer Managers may also be responsible for:
Dynamic Volunteer Managers possess a diverse set of skills. Much of the role relies on relationship building, so Volunteer Managers should feel comfortable interacting with people regularly and asking for help! They should also have:
Another requirement of the job? Passion! Volunteer professionals are passionate about helping others and bettering their communities. It’s what inspires volunteers to engage with the cause continuously.
Keep reading for expert volunteer management best practices that help Volunteer Managers (like you!) succeed in their roles.
We’ve compiled the top volunteer management best practices for the modern volunteer program; it’s all about working smarter (not harder) to get better results. Investing in these recommended tools and strategies today will save you time and resources in the long run.
Today, adopting volunteer management software is considered best practice. Busy Volunteer Managers need dependable, cost-effective technology that streamlines and simplifies administrative processes. In other words, countless spreadsheets and paper documentation are both costly and cumbersome.
Innovative volunteer programs rely on a dedicated volunteer management system to digitize and automate daily volunteer management activities. Some of the most helpful software capabilities include:
Powerful volunteer management software centralizes a range of tools needed to successfully and efficiently manage volunteers.
Why do you need volunteer management software?
When administrative tasks are automated and streamlined, Volunteer Managers have more time to focus on highly impactful activities like engaging volunteers and maintaining essential partnerships.
Volunteer Management Software Tips
Looking into volunteer management software? Keep your most important needs in mind when making a decision. Consider the following for a seamless transition to your new software:
Whether you’re starting a volunteer program or evaluating your current one, goal setting is essential to any volunteer management strategy.
When defining your volunteer program goals, think SMART. Your SMART goals should be:
Once you’ve defined your program objectives, identify staff and volunteer actions required to accomplish the intended outcomes. You’ll also want to establish indicators of success and strategies to measure goal attainment.
The following example illustrates one method in which goal-setting can lead to an actionable plan with measurable outcomes:
Indicators of Success:
Methods of Measurement:
Volunteer programs should prioritize their volunteers; it seems like a no-brainer, right? While you depend on your volunteers to deliver critical services, tight budgets and busy schedules sometimes mean that volunteers don’t get the attention they deserve.
When volunteers feel neglected, you’re more likely to see diminishing satisfaction, decreased performance, and higher turnover rates. Volunteers are the key to program success; therefore you’ll need to keep them at the forefront of your mission.
So, how can you prioritize your volunteers?
Keep your volunteers happy and engaged by creating a positive volunteer experience.
Volunteers tend to be most satisfied with their work when they:
Now that we know what volunteers are looking for, here’s what you need to do to create meaningful, positive volunteering experiences:
Focus on first impressions.
Your volunteers’ first interactions with your organization should be positive (read: frustration-free). Welcome new volunteers with a personalized email, streamline your onboarding process, and simplify onsite check-in.
Collect key data on volunteer preferences and skills.
Today’s volunteers are looking for personalized experiences. Give volunteers a simple way to share their interests, skills, and qualifications upon registration. This behind-the-scenes data collection should inform volunteer matching, so you can more readily pair volunteers with impactful opportunities they’ll love.
Empower your supporters to help shape your program. Survey volunteers about their experience, feedback, and ideas. Most importantly, use volunteer feedback to inform decision-making.
Share impact data.
Show volunteers that their contributions are making a real difference. Regularly track and report on your volunteers’ hours and impact data. A volunteer management system automates the hours collection process and can even produce live-updating reports specific to each volunteer or volunteer group.
According to volunteer management best practice, social media should become a core element of your program’s marketing strategy. More specifically, the future of marketing is peer-to-peer (you’ve probably heard of peer-to-peer fundraising). Peer-to-peer marketing is cost-effective and powerful, and most easily achieved through social media.
So how does it work? When your supporters share content about your organization on social media, they’re incidentally promoting your cause. In other words, your current volunteers are your best advocates. People are more likely to trust the recommendations of friends, family, and colleagues over other forms of outreach. This is a great way to encourage your supporters to invite their peers to join and volunteer, too!
The takeaway? Empower volunteers to share your message, and watch your network grow!
Here’s how to get your content shared:
Strategic volunteer recruitment is an essential volunteer management practice; without it, you’ll struggle to get the volunteers you need.
Most volunteer programs are dedicating time to actively recruiting new volunteers. However, many aren’t maximizing their recruitment efforts.
So, what is the best way to recruit more volunteers?
Utilize multiple channels to reach prospective volunteers. To recruit more volunteers, take advantage of various media and platforms, including:
Volunteer programs need reliable communication to function efficiently. Without the right tools, keeping your volunteers informed becomes a difficult and time-consuming process. Fortunately, today’s technology simplifies and expedites communication.
To get the most bang for your buck, we recommend opting for a multi-tasking volunteer management software that integrates communication systems with other management functionality. If you manage both your volunteer and donorship programs, you may also opt for CRM.
A professional communication system can:
Did you know that 62% of service-focused organizations are losing valuable volunteer data due to poor record-keeping? While every volunteer program should track volunteer impact, not every organization has a system to keep data organized.
Simply put, good data empowers organizations to win grants, inspire support, and build capacity. That’s why volunteer programs benefit from investing in better data tracking.
An automated tracking system collects and stores volunteer hours and other impact data for easier reporting. If you’re looking to upgrade from spreadsheets and manual data entry (talk about time-consuming!), here’s what to look for in an automated hours tracking system:
Does your organization welcome families, corporate partners, student groups, and volunteer teams? Our communities benefit when we volunteer together. In fact, studies show that volunteering with others makes people happier. And your volunteer program wins too–more helping hands means greater impact! So, why not tap into your volunteers’ networks by making it easy for volunteer teams to get involved?
But here’s the catch: managing volunteer groups isn’t always straightforward. You have lots of members to connect with, and many teams want to know their collective impact. Without a strategy in place for engaging volunteer groups, Volunteer Managers miss out on fruitful partnerships.
The best way to cater to volunteer groups is to assess your current volunteer management system. When it comes to engaging teams of volunteers, make sure your management tools have the following capabilities:
With the right tools, you’ll grow your volunteer program without fearing those large groups!
Volunteer training provides volunteers with the knowledge and resources to complete work independently and effectively, empowering them to have a measurable impact in your community. Plus, volunteer training is associated with higher performance and long-term involvement.
Make volunteer orientation and training a core component of your management strategy, and enjoy the benefits of prepared, engaged volunteers.
Level up your orientation and training program with these best practices:
Welcome new volunteers with an orientation.
Before you jump right into any role-specific training, take a moment to welcome new volunteers. The primary purpose of volunteer orientation is to acquaint recruits with your organization, staff, processes, and mission.
Your orientation should also provide context and purpose, give a brief history of your organization, help newcomers understand the complexities of the needs and gaps you’re addressing, and introduce client profiles where appropriate.
You may choose to deliver this information entirely online, in-person, or a combination of both. Visit this article for more tips on how to set your volunteers up for success.
Plan your volunteer training content.
Before you implement your training program, formulate a content plan; what do you want volunteers to learn? How extensive will your training be?
Basic training usually covers the following information:
Support your training with technology.
Introducing technology into your training program will help volunteers get acquainted with the systems you use and keep them engaged in the material.
Here are some ways to embrace technology in your training:
Meet your virtual volunteers where they are: online! Online volunteer training is cost-effective and allows busy volunteers to learn in their own time.
Virtual training offers flexibility so that eager volunteers can get started in their own time. Integrate virtual training elements into your onboarding process for a seamless transition. So, once a volunteer registers, promptly provide them with instructions on how to access virtual training.
For more skilled volunteer roles, virtual volunteer training tends to work best when accompanied by a brief in-person session–you’ll be able to answer questions as they arise naturally and engage in more meaningful conversation face-to-face. Furthermore, some role-specific training is best carried out in person (like CPR training).
Are you investing enough time into thanking and recognizing your volunteers?
Over 40% of public charities rely heavily or entirely on volunteers to operate, and Americans volunteer 8.8 billion hours annually. Without their contributions, communities would not have access to some of the most fundamental public programs and services. In other words, all volunteers deserve regular, genuine demonstrations of appreciation.
Recognize your supporters with these tried and tested volunteer appreciation ideas:
Author: Addison Waters
Join thousands of Volunteer Management Pros in getting exclusive resources to help you save time and make the biggest impact.