Is your agency ready for volunteers?

jeanVolunteer Central by Jean Joley for PCNRC

So your agency is thinking about using volunteers, good idea or bad idea? Let’s think this one out. The right volunteers can be a wonderful gift to an agency and help them on many levels. Or, if you’re not ready for a volunteer effort they may really add to your “to-do” list.

PLUS FACTORS Well trained and managed volunteers can expand the capacity of your agency and allow you to serve more clients. Did you know that volunteer service has value? According to the Points of Light Foundation the dollar value of volunteer service is $22.14/hour. The value can be calculated and included in the agency’s financial statement. Volunteers are really “non-paid” staff when properly screened, trained, supervised and recognized.

THE QUESTION:  Do you want volunteers for long-term needs? Or short-term projects? What skills should volunteers have? Who will train them? Who will supervise them?

ARE YOU READY? So, before you welcome the first volunteer in the door your agency is going to have to do some planning.

  • Does your staff like and support the idea of volunteers?
  • Do you have adequate staff to support the volunteer effort?
  • What staff member(s) are going to take the role of managing Volunteer Support (Volunteer performance review, recordkeeping of volunteer hours, training and orientation)?
  • Have you developed a Job Description? What would you like for volunteers to do? What skills are required for position?
  • Do you have an application process? Who will do volunteer interviews?
  • Your volunteer will need to be screened. Letters of recommendation? Background checks?
  • Are the space and tools (computers, etc.) available to accommodate the volunteer’s work?

MANAGING VOLUNTEERS: For nonprofit organizations that depend on volunteers, one benefit of properly managing them is a solid work team comprised of paid and non-paid staff. Both volunteers and staff know their roles. And the staff knows that volunteers will not replace them in the work space. Volunteers will be appreciated and understand that their service makes a difference to the entire agency.

FAILING TO MANAGE VOLUNTEERS:  On the other hand, neglecting to manage volunteers can create significant problems. Poor performance by the volunteer, conflicts between volunteers and paid staff; and high volunteer turnover are examples of these problems.

RECOGNITION: A simple “thank you” is the most effective recognition tool. You might also feature the volunteer in the agency publications or in-house messages. Think about nominating them for national and/or regional awards to recognize their achievements with the organizations. Make them feel part of the team. Include them in staff activities and events.

WHAT’S NEXT:  You might consider contacting another agency that successfully uses volunteers to guide you along the process. That can save worry and grief by leaning on them for support. And NIAVA (Northeast Indiana Volunteer Administrators Association) is a wonderful support network of Volunteer Administrators. And the website WWW.VolunteerFortWayne.Org has great resource material for both volunteers and agency staff.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Volunteer Center or the PCNRC.

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