Clone Yourself - Volunteer Management

That day, (Okay, most days), when you think, “I have so much to do, I wish There were more of Me”…

Since we don’t have cloning machines, or a ton of robots that can do what we do, (please get in touch if you do have these things), then the best way for us to clone ourselves is to manage volunteers and manage them better. Many of our clients work in volunteer focused organizations, but time and time again, they see themselves with too much to do and an under-utilized volunteer base.

The fact of the matter is, they signed up with your organization because their goals align with yours, which makes them invested in helping you accomplish that workload. What is holding you back from getting them onboard?

Common reasons organizations are not involving volunteers when they should:

1. “Staying busy” culture. Busy and productive are not the same thing. An employee focusing on quality volunteer management often doesn’t look as “busy” as a person trying to do it all themselves, but they are going to get way more done. A lot their time will be spent staying in touch, organizing logistics and information, and in trainings. They won’t be the person running around the office, always at the printer, always exasperated about what a time crunch they are under. They also might not be visible in the office as much if they are meeting with volunteers frequently. If your work culture favors being visibly busy all the time and reward employees socially or in advancement for doing so, you might be suppressing your potential for growth.

2. “We asked for volunteers, but we never get any”. This leads to feeling that your volunteers don’t appreciate what your organization is doing and that they aren’t engaged. What often happens is, that “ask” you put out to volunteers was late and lacked detail. Volunteers have their own life schedules to organize. You have to be early to ask and be clear with what they’ll be doing. Is it a committee or a one time thing? How much time is required? How flexible is it? Where is it? So many more little questions too. Volunteers have lots of things competing for their time, so if you want a piece of it, you need to be the earliest on their calendar and the best about communicating what you need.

3. Committees and volunteers are time consuming. Well, this is half true. Yes, they take a lot of pre-work, but compared to what you get out of it, your input is a lot less. What we often find is that the team being asked to institute a committee or recruit volunteers for their projects is feeling behind in their workload. This makes them more likely to be finishing things last minute and be less prepared to plan far ahead. They need the committee and volunteers, but to get it started, you may need to have a tough conversation about what are your true priorities or about staffing needs. You may need to ramp down to a level where your staff can act more strategically, plan in advance, and do the prep work required to maintain volunteers. Or you many need to bring someone in who manages department volunteers entirely. There are lots of routes to take, but once you get your systems in place, you will be able to ramp back up again, and further than you had been before.

4. Failing to maintain volunteer relationships. Don’t let your volunteers be an afterthought. You may not be paying them, but you need to let them know you see their value. Plan ahead to avoid wasting their time. Keep them involved in decision-making, Take their feedback seriously and communicate how you address it. Thank them in every way you can afford, be it note cards, seasonal gifts, awards, or a celebration meal.