3 top volunteer management challenges – and how you can overcome them
Posted Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 by Sterling Volunteers Staff
No one has ever said that running a nonprofit organization was easy, and they likely never will. Like bears to honey, nonprofits seem to attract all sorts of obstacles. Some issues are common and recognizable, like getting the right budget to adequately support your program and help you achieve your mission. Or finding those volunteers who best align with your organization’s message. Many, however, can appear suddenly due to the constantly evolving landscape of volunteer-based programs. Identifying and finding a solution to these challenges quickly is essential in keeping you, your volunteers and your organization running smoothly. You’ve started off 2017 with a thorough knowledge of rising trends – now read our list of the biggest volunteer program challenges and keep your organization ahead of the game.
Not a surprise, eh? Like organizations in business or government, nonprofits face the problem of finding talented, passionate, and available individuals to staff various positions. And, just as vital, those with the ability to donate their time. Perhaps you feel your organization is adequately staffed. Then a sudden event occurs and you are slammed with requests for resources or volunteers – do you have sufficient help waiting in the wings? Oftentimes organizations discover that the best way to find new volunteers is through current ones. Volunteers often have friends and family that are just as eager to get involved. Try approaching your best volunteers with this helpful question: “You do such fantastic work here. If you could suggest to us friends and family members who share the same passion and would be interested in volunteering, it would be a great help!”
Iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel once famously quipped, “The best things in life are free. The second best things are very, very expensive.” In this case, we’re not talking about a high-end outfit from a French dress shop, but running a nonprofit requires funds for other potentially less glamorous line items. A good deal of time is spent discussing, planning, and doling out funds to keep your organization operating at full mass. Do you have big dreams for your organization and volunteers but a tight budget? Then do two things: review costs and build loyalty.
First, look at how your organization spends money and see if there are any areas where funds could be better distributed. Put a critical eye to the long-term success of your programs and consider changing or doing away with what’s not working.
Secondly, find great volunteers, train them well, and treat them well – research shows a solid onboarding program is key. You have put all this time and money into onboarding a fresh batch of recruits. Use each volunteer’s talents wisely and show your appreciation.
Piggybacking off the last section, do not simply give your volunteers something to do. How do you find out what works best for each volunteer while also achieving your organization’s goals? Talk to them when they come to interview and take notes on what they are studying at university and their past work experience. Give them assignments or tasks where they can use their particular skills and background in order to excel. Yes, volunteering work can at times be less than thrilling, but if the tasks complement the interests of the volunteer they are far more likely to stick around and do a better job. Oh, and don’t forget to show your appreciation when they’ve done excellent work on a project.
- Schedule regular check-ins with volunteers. Having quick weekly or bi-monthly check-ins with your volunteers makes their voices and concerns feel heard. And it gives you the opportunity to make sure they are getting the most out of their time volunteering and to address any necessary issues one-on-one.
- Use the buddy system. Have a fresh new batch of volunteers coming in with more senior ones soon to retire? Pair new volunteers with those that have been at your organization longest. They have experience, insight, and great advice. As a bonus, it relieves the burden of training and frees you up to handle other organization tasks.
We’ve laid out some of the more common volunteer management issues we hear about. Now we want to hear from you. Which of these challenges are an issue for you? Share your challenges with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Let us know which volunteer program issues you would like us to help you explore and we will dive into them in future posts.