One of the best hats that I get to wear is that of “Volunteer Coordinator.” My organization works with about 60 different volunteers during our concert season, another 100 who volunteer for our annual special event fundraiser, and another 30 who volunteer to serve year-round on our board of directors.
ArtsHacker authors have published several great posts that deal with a variety of volunteer issues. But an article that came across my newsfeed recently, made me pause and think about my work with volunteers. The title alone is thought provoking: Volunteer Management: Are We Afraid of Upsetting Them?
- Volunteers are often the first and last line of contact: as such, they can directly affect your patrons’ experiences. Thinking about them as part of your front line can certainly direct how you train and treat them.
- Good volunteer management includes training to a standard and tracking results: I know, often in the thick of the season, it’s hard to offer training sessions or even to track which volunteers show up. But, since they are in frequent contact with patrons, volunteers do need some kind of training. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy session; lots of information can be sent in advance in an email or hosted on your website or can be reviewed a few minutes before their duties are to begin.
- Volunteers should be flexible: I praise all the concert gods when I have a set of volunteers who say “whatever and wherever you need me!” As we know, concert or performance nights don’t often go exactly as planned, so people who can adapt quickly and don’t freak when they are assigned a different job are worth their weight in concert tickets. For those who are less flexible, try to avoid using them in situations where there may be change or difficult situations. But, don’t be afraid to…
- Volunteers should sometimes be “retired”: I never want to turn away someone who has offered their time to help. But, sometimes, that person is not suited to the work this organization needs them. In such a case, if there is no other place for them in your work, don’t be afraid to thank them for their work and/or interest and let them move on.
At the end of the day, volunteers are incredibly important to the work of nonprofits which in turn makes volunteer management an important part of someone’s job.