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5 Steps for Managing Volunteers

by Clay Harmon
Manage Managing Volunteers

What does it mean to lead your volunteers as opposed to managing them? It’s easy to call anyone in a position of power a leader, but managing is the technical description of your job, whereas leading them is so much more. To lead is to inspire, and volunteer managers who are able to lead successfully often possess these traits:

  • They have the ability to communicate the vision of the organization and how volunteers will play a part in that vision
  • They know their volunteers, what motivates them, and how to get the best from them
  • They help their volunteers develop new skills and move them into different roles as the needs of the organization change

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Ask People to Volunteer in Areas They Are Passionate About

You should always play to the interests and strengths of your volunteers since that will most likely bring them back for more. Of course, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find someone who is passionate about filing paperwork or sending out mass mailings, but someone has to do it. Look for a balance in responsibilities so one person isn’t stuck doing the most mundane tasks. Or why not multitask and combine the time a group spends on a monthly mailing with a good old-fashioned brainstorming session?

This Ain’t a Retail Job, so Respect Their Availability

Being provided with labor to further your cause can feel so satisfying when it’s free. And once those selfless individuals prove their worth and their usefulness, managers often fall into the trap of asking more and more of those volunteers. If too much is demanded of a volunteer, it’s typical for burnout to occur, which could lead them to stop volunteering altogether. Don’t push your unpaid workforce too hard. Take what they are offering and be careful about asking for more.

Part of Managing Volunteers Means Rewarding Them

Everyone wants to feel appreciated—especially volunteers. People volunteering do it because they want to make a difference in the world, and recognition and rewards help them know they are doing just that. There are plenty of ways to recognize your volunteers without spending a lot of money. Candy, coffee, and $5 gift cards for ice cream never get boring, but if you want to spice up the rewards, why not do an occasional big gift? Ask a sponsor if they’d be willing to donate a package, such as a weekend getaway or a day at the salon.

Remember to Say Thank You

Rewards are great, but a simple thank you is the icing on the cake. Never let your volunteers forget how valuable they are to your organization.

Get by With a Little Help From Your Friends

It’s important to have a support system where you can ask others with experience in the field for advice. The Volunteer Administrators Network (an independent body for supporting and representing those who manage volunteers) is there for people like you, regardless of your discipline or the sector you’re in.

Volunteer Management Software

Did you know you can easily manage your volunteers and communicate with them in Aplos? Check out Groups & Teams to see how easy it is. Try it free for 15 days.

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