A little thought goes a long way …
Whether your organisation involves 5, 50 or 500 volunteers, taking the time to think and plan for their involvement and management can reap big rewards – for your beneficiaries, your organisation and for volunteers themselves. Many organisations don’t give due attention to volunteering, or volunteer management, when planning strategically or developing new services or programs. The result can be inconsistent service or program delivery, risks to beneficiaries, conflicts between paid staff and volunteers and a poor quality volunteering experience. Your organisation not only risks damage to its reputation, but also misses out on the tremendous benefits that can come from positive and meaningful volunteer involvement! Here we look at how your organisation can benefit through volunteer management.
Ten ways that volunteer management can make a difference to your organisation:
- Your volunteer program helps your organisation achieve its vision, values, aims and objectives. All your volunteer roles should fit clearly with your organisational priorities and it’s also vital that how you involve, manage and relate to volunteers fits with your organisation’s values and ethos.
- Your organisation is able to offer high quality services and programs, which are delivered safely. Good volunteer management means there’s clarity about the roles of volunteers and consistent standards of behavior, conduct and commitment.
- All volunteer involvement is meaningful, purposeful and harnesses the skills and talents of volunteers effectively. Taking the time to think about why you’re involving volunteers and what skills, knowledge or qualities are required for roles is a good first step. It’s also important to be flexible enough that you can tap into individual volunteers’ skills, knowledge or specialist areas of expertise rather than rigidly sticking to a “one size fits all” approach.
- Your volunteer program helps your organisation to respond to changing needs and demands. This could be changes in the political, economic or environmental context or new/emerging needs within the communities you serve. It’s also important that your organisation is able to recognize and respond to changing motivations and availability among volunteers themselves, so that you are well positioned to continue attracting and retaining volunteers.
- Everyone involved is able to get the maximum benefit from the voluntary relationship – whether that’s your beneficiaries, the organisation, or the volunteer themselves. Really getting to know your volunteers; their skills, experience, motivations and how they want to grow and develop is vital. It’s also important to regularly review how your organisation is involving volunteers to ensure they are able to have maximum impact.
- You understand and can evidence the impact of volunteers’ work and the difference they make to the communities you work with. This is great information for funders and can really help when writing bids for new programs, but it’s also essential for motivating volunteers and communicating their importance and value.
- Your staff feels confident about working alongside volunteers and resolving any issues that might arise. Thinking through the skills and knowledge that your staff might need to manage volunteers and offering training or guidance can help to avoid problems further down the line. Ensure that managing or supervising volunteers is included in staff job/role descriptions and that all staff has access to information about managing volunteers as part of their induction.
- You are able to involve a diverse range of people as volunteers, including people from the communities you work with or your beneficiary groups. Using a variety of different channels for volunteer recruitment and being clear about what support and training you are able to offer can help your organisation involve a diverse mix of volunteers.
- Volunteers act as positive ambassadors for your organisation – both now and in the future. Investing time in briefing or training volunteers means that they are then able to articulate your organisation’s vision, values and the difference you make to people’s lives. Volunteers can also play a powerful role in challenging prejudice, discrimination and stigma.
- Your organisation builds long-lasting relationships with volunteers. Nothing lasts forever, but you can build great relationships with your volunteers by offering opportunities to grow/develop within their roles and transition to new roles over time. It’s also important to think about different ways that they can continue supporting your organisation, even after they cease volunteering.
Does this sound like the type of volunteer program you want to have?
A simple way to start is by devoting some time at your next planning day, or management meeting, to think about why and how you involve volunteers within your organisation. You could also ask some of your current or past volunteers to feedback their views on what works well, what could be improved and what training or support they need to fulfill their roles within your organisation.
Want to think more about volunteer management? Then join our weekly tweetchat every Thursday using the hashtag #ttvolmgrs (hosted by @VMMovement) for debate and discussion about key aspects of volunteer management with those working in the field. Each week is themed around a different issue and includes a weekly blog post on www.ivo.org to kickstart the discussion.
There are many sources of useful info and guidance about volunteer management online:
IVO: IVO connects volunteers, charities, social action groups and volunteer managers across the UK through blogging and sharing news. You can also join the Volunteer Managers Group on ivo, where you can post questions, join discussion threads or make connections with other volunteer managers:
Energize Inc: Energize, Inc. is an international training, consulting and publishing firm specializing in volunteerism. Lots of information and resources about volunteer management
Volunteering England/National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO): The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is the largest umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England. Volunteering England is now part of NCVO and is a resource for research, policy and good practice guidance on volunteering.