Volunteers are an essential part of any charity and that means effective volunteer management is also essential. The term ‘volunteer management’ involves everything from planning the roles, finding and recruiting volunteers, the day-to-day management and engagement you carry out to retain your volunteers, and finally, handling the ‘stepping down’ process. This vital function within a charity can be made easier through the use of technology to provide a consistent approach to the ‘volunteer journey’ along with the benefits of having all volunteer information stored in one place.
Defining Volunteer Roles
Before recruiting volunteers, you should take time to clearly define the different volunteer roles your charity needs to help you achieve your goals. Each role should have a role description which outlines the objectives of the role and the activities it will involve. The skills and qualifications essential or desirable to the role should be identified, along with any volunteer screening requirements.
Consistent Recruitment Process
Having a defined recruitment and on-boarding process for your volunteers will help your volunteer coordinators understand the stages they will need to take their volunteers through. This will help ensure a consistent experience for all volunteers across your organisation as they start their volunteer journey with you and help you ensure your volunteers are being treated fairly and equally. You may have conditional stages dependent on the type of role they are being recruited for – you need this process to be as streamlined as possible, with minimum bureaucracy, whist ensuring you are satisfying your charity’s policies and performing the checks necessary for the role.
Your volunteer recruitment and on-boarding process is likely to involve time-consuming administrative tasks. It is therefore important that you have systems in place to increase efficiency with, for example:
- Arranging and tracking appointments for potential volunteers to meet with a volunteer coordinator
- The issuing/signing of volunteer agreements
- Administration around Risk Assessments and screening
- Recording communications with the volunteer that other staff can access
Having the ability for your volunteer coordinators to easily record and view the current stage a volunteer is through their recruitment or on-boarding journey is also important for efficient management of volunteer pipeline.
Volunteer Motivations, Skills and Training
Every charity needs to ensure they are leveraging the strengths of their volunteers whilst keeping them engaged and motivated. You may have volunteers assigned to roles that are not making the most of the skills they have or their passion and motivation for your charity.
Talking to your volunteers about their motivations and the skills or qualifications they have during regular reviews or appraisals enables you to identify potential opportunities and will help them feel valued.
Recording their skills and qualifications in a structured way using a volunteer management system enables you to perform searches within your existing volunteer base when you need someone for a specific task.
Any training that you provide your volunteers should be recorded to help track investment in, and personal development of, your volunteers. Holding structured volunteer skills data will also help your charity provide focussed volunteer training and development.
Volunteer Availability and Hours
Understanding the potential availability of your volunteers is crucial to effectively matching volunteers to specific roles or tasks. Implementing a system that allows you to record the typical days/times a volunteer may be able to carry out their volunteer hours will assist with this, along with maintaining logs of scheduled volunteer hours.
In addition to understanding when volunteers are available, it is also important for you to track the hours that a volunteer has carried out. Tracking volunteer hours associated with each role helps you understand and report on the value and impact your volunteers are having in achieving your objectives and can help justify the investment you make in them.
Day-to-Day Volunteer Management
Retaining your volunteer base is essential and this previous blog discusses how your charity can build strong and long-lasting relationships with your volunteers.
Your volunteer coordinators and their colleagues need to have the tools to enable easy day-to-day management of their volunteers to provide them with more time to focus on relationship management.
A professional volunteer management system can transform the efficiency of the day-to-day management of volunteers, providing, for example, the ability to:
- Access and update volunteer contact information and emergency contact details
- Record interactions/communications with volunteers and manage follow-up tasks
- Track volunteer hours
- Thank volunteers for their contributions and congratulate them on achievements
- View communication history and supporting documentation
- Track and action volunteer screening renewals and risk assessments
- Manage event and training participation for volunteers
- Have a 360 degree view of each volunteer, including the relationships they have with other supporters and their interactions with other teams in your charity
- Record and manage enquiries or issues from volunteers and route these to their volunteer coordinator
- Run regular reports on volunteer-based data
Providing volunteers with an easy and secure means to update their contact details, availability, scheduled and completed hours and their skills and qualifications themselves can go a long way in reducing the administrative overhead on the charity in keeping these records up to date.
Consider implementing a volunteer ‘self-service’ website integrated with your volunteer management system which provides your volunteers with access to view and update the records you hold about them, along with the ability to submit enquiries or issues which can be routed automatically to their volunteer coordinator.
Volunteer Online Community
Ensuring your volunteers feel engaged and supported is a crucial part of volunteer management. Consider providing your volunteers access to a secure web-based forum for sharing knowledge and ideas and enabling volunteers to communicate and support one another.
Consistent Off-Boarding Process
It is vital that when the time comes for a volunteer to step down from their role, your volunteer coordinator can take them through a consistent and streamlined process. It is important that you take the time to thank the volunteer for their time and contributions to your charity. You should also take this chance to capture their feedback during an exit interview. This will enable you to identify what you’ve been doing right with volunteer management and where you can improve.
Authored by Vicki Burton