Managing Volunteers

10 02 2010

Alright, making do with less has motivated us all to find efficiencies in many aspects of our lives. And when it comes to getting the job done at work, doing more without impacting the bottom line is always a bonus. So when it’s time to commit to additional staffing, it’s important to distinguish between employees, interns, and volunteers.

Volunteers. Summed up, a volunteer can be defined as “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking,” or “a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.” Legally, a volunteer can be defined as “a person whose actions are not founded on any legal obligation so to act.” So volunteerism lies in the absence of a contract and the absence of a subordinate type of relationship – a volunteer is simply someone who wants to help out, is free to come and go as she/he pleases and is not rewarded with money (with the exception of reimbursements ) nor training in exchange for the tasks carried out.

In 2009, volunteerism in the U.S. rose to include about 26.8% of the U.S. population, or 63.4 million people. Among the notable statistics, this increase was driven by women, and employed people volunteered at a higher rate than the unemployed. Furthermore, a survey indicated the following volunteerism habits:

  • People aged 35 to 44 are most likely to volunteer;
  • Married people and parents of children under 18 are more likely than the single or childless to volunteer;
  • Fund raising is the most frequently cited activity engaged in by volunteers; and
  • Most volunteers give their time to only one organization.

With so many people wanting to help out and your time stretched thin, where can the efficiencies be found? Well, upon managing volunteers and volunteering programs, for an organization and its volunteers to benefit the most from each other, volunteers should be managed as part of an overall, systematic program, somewhat similar to the systematic approach that should be used to managing employees. And to learn about or adapt an existing program, the Free Management Library has truly put together the best list of resources on the subject. This resource includes a number of articles on a dearth of relevant information, including:

  • Deciding whether your organization needs volunteers;
  • Designing and operating your volunteer management system;
  • Role of volunteer managers;
  • Legal and risk considerations;
  • Policies;
  • Volunteer job/task descriptions;
  • Volunteer recruitment and screening;
  • Training and supervising volunteers; and
  • Assessing volunteer management programs.

Don’t get caught turning down volunteers simply because you don’t have time to manage them otherwise. As I mentioned earlier, volunteers are eager to help. And there are more of them willing to do so these days. Recognize the opportunities a part of your organization that could benefit from volunteer work and set up a systematized approach for managing their efforts. Surely, both you and your volunteers will appreciate it.

Photo courtesy of Be Brilliant.



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