8 Tips for How to Manage Volunteers

Volunteer CoordinatorCoordinating volunteers is one of the most important jobs done by schools, churches, children's sports leagues and non-profits. When it's done well, these organizations run efficiently and accomplish their missions. But acting as a volunteer coordinator is no easy task. By combining these tips and online sign up tools, you'll be well on your way as a volunteer recruiting and managing pro.

Make the Direct Ask

So you choreographed a funny song and dance routine to let potential volunteers know you need them. You even snookered that wanna-be Steven Spielberg friend of yours to create a video to post on your website, Youtube and Facebook. But still, very few people are lining up for those volunteer spots you're trying to fill. Have you ever thought of making a list of people you think could do the jobs and then asking them directly? The truth is, most people don't think you're talking to them, unless, well, you're talking to them…directly.

Make It Easy For People to Volunteer

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. This is where your skills as a coordinator will be put to the test. Have you organized your volunteer opportunities into small, easily accomplished tasks with clear starting and ending points? Do the time slots for volunteering vary, so that people can choose dates and times that work for them? If you can provide a variety of potential tasks, some that require working in a group and some that allow people to work alone, even better. And how about the volunteer location? Is it a site that is easy to get to or maybe even allows your volunteers to serve from home?

Do Background Checks

Let your volunteers know that you will do what it takes to protect those whom they are serving. Great volunteers will appreciate this. If your organization serves children, the elderly or people with disabilities who may easily be victimized, make sure you have a system for running background checks. These should be completed before a volunteer begins serving.

Provide Useful Training

Hey, the truth is, most of your volunteers will already have day jobs, so leave the lame training sessions to the professionals. Your volunteers aren't going to be quite so patient if you waste their time when they aren't even getting paid for it. Keep the training focused, relevant and as short as possible. While you're at it, feed those newbies while you train them. People will put up with a lot for a really good piece of cheesecake.

Ask People to Volunteer in Areas They're Passionate About

As much as possible, use the strengths and interests of your volunteers to your advantage. Ok, we get it. No one is passionate about filing paperwork or sending out mass mailings, but someone has to do it. Look for ways to make even the mundane interesting. Why not combine the time a group will spend on getting out a monthly mailing to also act as a group think tank session? These folks like what your organization is all about, or they wouldn't be giving you their valuable free time…for free. So why not pick their brains for ways to make it better while they get other work done for you?

Respect Volunteer's Availability

The volunteer spot sounded enticing…before they volunteered. Now that those valuable servants have proved themselves to be useful, you've started asking more and more of them. Watch out. Volunteer burn out is real and can be deadly. It's important not to push your unpaid workforce to their limit. Listen to what they are offering and don't ask for more.

Reward Your Volunteers

Everyone likes to know they are appreciated, and there are many ways to send this message to 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 try a drawing for a bigger prize from time to time? Ask a sponsor if they'd be willing to donate a package, say a weekend getaway or salon services. Or you could get really creative and arrange a night of free babysitting for volunteers with young children. Moms and dads will love you!

Say Thank You

Rewards are great, but a simple thank you expressed often is just as valuable. Never let your staff forget that volunteers are choosing to sacrifice their free time by working alongside your organization. Be sure to find creative ways to thank your volunteers.

Coordinating volunteers can be an overwhelming job, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these tips to develop a volunteer base that is dedicated helping your organization succeed.