Are You a New Volunteer Manager? Here’s Managing Volunteers 101

How can you manage volunteers?

What do you need done? Volunteers can help you in practically any area of your job, while gaining valuable skills, and getting a positive experience with your organization.

How to find and interview volunteers
How to write a compelling volunteer job description
What volunteers want
How to praise and thank volunteers
What can volunteers do

What is it?
Managing volunteers is a skill which will help you get more done with less funds.

When to do it:
Recruit volunteers when you have a mailing you need sent out, an event, a newsletter you need written, or just too much to do.

You’ll need:
Idea of what needs to get done, and what volunteers could do, Volunteer job description, Profiles at,, Access to your local college campus volunteer/career office mailing list, Ways to appreciate volunteers.

What to do:
Start by making a list of everything you have to do. Decide which items could be delegated. Write a task description. Post it. Interview, Choose, and Supervise volunteers. Have weekly check-ins, and find new ways to meaningfully praise and thank volunteers.

Key Concepts
Volunteer Motivation
Corporate volunteers
Writing your description of the job
Volunteer Appreciation

Why do people volunteer?

To Be Challenged,
To Do Meaningful Work, and
To Learn, and To Get Recognition.

People will volunteer because they care about your cause, because they majored in a subject relating to your mission, because your cause feels personal to them, to feel good about a problem they want to solve, to show they did something while they were unemployed, or because they want to gain the necessary job experience to get into the nonprofit field. Also, in order to graduate from high school, many schools now require a certain number of community volunteer hours.

Young volunteers want-
Opportunities to grow career-related skills
Participate in problem-solving and innovation
Meet and have fun with like-minded people
Understand a community’s needs
See tangible evidence of the value of their work
Help with a defined purpose in a defined period of time. Make it seem like an exclusive opportunity.

What can volunteers do?
Volunteers help you in development in so many ways, it’s hard to count! I have had volunteers interview program staff for grants and newsletters, design my annual report, blow up balloons, design a new newsletter, research grants, edit proposals, assist with event logistics, take photographs at events, photocopy appeal letters, stuff envelopes, help with checkout at auctions, and more. We are truly blessed to live in a culture which values volunteerism.

When volunteers do all of these things for you, the important thing is to give the volunteers not just a pizza party, but a sense that you noticed their efforts and appreciate their time.. Give them lots of support, praise, and act as a reference if necessary. If they have a LinkedIn profile, give them a LinkedIn recommendation. I like to help unemployed volunteers set up an RSS feed for jobs.

Volunteers are tremendously important to your organization. Their labor is worth at least $18.00 per hour when they do the work someone else in your organization does not have time to do. You can use this calculation in your measures of how successful you were during the course of the year. It’s not just about how much money you bring in, but also about how much money you save the organization.

What CAN’T they do?
It is important to recognize that volunteers will not solve long term bandwidth problems in your organization. This means if you really need three more people for all of the work you do, then you need to devise a plan hire them. Even part time. If you are a one person department, volunteers will not be the answer for you. They can help you function to a certain point, but then you need to start lobbying for more people in your department, such as a Development Associate, Assistant, Director, Event Coordinator, Membership Coordinator, Marketing Coordinator, etc.

Finding Volunteers
Let’s go over the ways you can find people who want to help you.

You can post volunteer opportunities here, and it’s a wonderful place to connect with volunteers.
Idealist has been around for a long time. You can also post jobs on here, find jobs here, and create a group for your nonprofit.

This is so fun. This website helps you connect with volunteers who may have 15 minutes or 1 hour to help you, but they can be anywhere in the world. So if you have a legal document which you need a lawyer to look over, you can create a volunteer opportunity on here. Maybe you have a grant you’d like to get edited, or some research to do.

Your Own Website
Here’s a way to set up your nonprofit web page to make people aware of all of the many ways they can volunteer with you.

This is Amplify Your Voice’s site. I really like how they have big pictures and words over the pictures to help people not just know what the opportunities are, but to see themselves taking action.

You’ll notice I didn’t say Facebook or Twitter. These social networking sites are good for certain things, like building awareness about your cause, but they’re not trawled by people looking for volunteer opportunities. Go put your opportunity where someone is going to see it and respond. Don’t waste your time with other places.

Your donor database
Is there anyone in there, a loyal donor, who could be engaged as a volunteer?

Local faithbased organizations
Many faithbased organizations give a donation to a nonprofit each month. If you already have such an organization, why not ask if you can go speak to their group and ask for volunteers? There are tons of people in these organizations who love to help others. Give them a compelling story, and mention how you want to offer a fun gardening opportunity for them (for example).

High schools
Many high schools have a requirement for students to contribute 20 or more hours of service before they graduate. I know I had to do a lot of community service in a library before I could graduate.

Local universities
Tons of students are looking for real world experience in everything from graphic design and marketing to case management to environmental stewardship. Why not do a little outreach and see if you can get people interested in the volunteer opportunities you have available?

Social Groups
Soroptimists are a group which can do things for your cause. Fraternities or sororities often want to help out at community events. There may even be a Meetup group around your cause. If there isn’t one, maybe you can make one.

Finding volunteers can make your organization money! Many corporations, such as Starbucks, will have financial incentives for nonprofits who engage their employees. At last check, Starbucks would give $10USD per hour per employee for as long as each employee helped you. If you get 10 Starbucks volunteers for an event that’s 5 hours long, that’s an extra $5,000 for your organization, in addition to the valued labor.

 Take my webinar on finding volunteers on October 17th!

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