Tips to Having an Excellent Volunteer Program

Many nonprofit agencies are relying more and more on the assistance of volunteers to run their organizations effectively.

As with all others aspects of nonprofit management,  planning is important to develop an excellent volunteer program.  There is one essential theme.  An excellent volunteer management program is no different than an excellent program for hiring paid workers.

Of course, any personnel program begins with a detailed job description.

  • Skills needed
  • Supervision provided
  • Hours of work
  • Location  of work

Job interview
Interview each applicant personally.  Before the interview, ask for a resume.  Make sure to tell the applicant to include recent volunteer positions.  Ask for examples of volunteer tasks performed. Try to judge each volunteer’s temperament as well as skill levels.

Conduct a two-part orientation. One part is the general orientation for all new volunteers.

Make sure to include the agency’s history and services.  The volunteer should meet the board chair and the executive director.  Information given to each volunteer should include annual reports, agency brochures, and relevant board policies.

Include a specific orientation about the tasks the volunteer will be asked to undertake.  Allow plenty of time for questions. Make sure each volunteer knows what steps to take if he/she can not undertake a particular assignment.

Make sure each volunteer has a supervisor.  The supervisor can be either a paid staff person on a volunteer.  The supervisor should be in touch with each volunteer at least once a month, either by phone, e-mail or in person.  At every opportunity, the supervisor should thank the volunteer for their assistance.

Provide opportunities for training for all volunteers.  This should include periodic training at the office on topics of interest. Volunteers should have an opportunity to attend conferences and other training opportunities.

Remember that thank the volunteers for their service.  Volunteer recognition programs are always appropriate.  Include volunteers in holiday parties and other celebrations.

Make certain to keep records of the hours each volunteer spends assisting the agency. Note any problems and their solutions. Let each volunteer know that you will provide reference letters to schools, prospective employers, or wherever letters are needed.

Meet with each volunteer at least once a year to thank them for their service and make suggestions for improvement.

Problem Solving
If a volunteer is creating problems, set up a private meeting with the volunteer and his/her supervisor. Tell the supervisor not to criticize the volunteer. Spell out in a positive manner how the problem can be solved. Be firm but fair. Tell the volunteer that if the problem is not solved, the volunteer may have to switch position within the agency.


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