Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Volunteer?


By: Sarah Marczynski

In: Board & Committee Management, Volunteering

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?

volunteer management

Published in April, 2016 on Group of Minds, Ron Evans offers six thoughts on how volunteers can benefit, and simultaneously cause risk to, the organization, including:

  • 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.

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Sarah Marczynski
Sarah joined the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera in 2010 working with the Marketing and Development staffs and quickly became interested in community engagement and education. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration focusing in Nonprofit Arts Management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where her capstone and other work under Dr. Christopher Horne examined attendance patterns in high-art cultural institutions and network relationships between local arts agencies and cultural partners. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Vocal Music Education from UTC, where she studied under Dr. Kevin Ford and Ron Ulen. Sarah has been active in the Chattanooga arts community, serving as the founding chair of the Chattanooga Young Artistic Network (CYAN), graduating from the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute, and working with the Chattanooga Boys Choir, the Choral Arts Society, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Bach Choir. Outside of the arts world, Sarah pretends to be an excellent cook (but she's broken 2 ovens), reads Jane Austen novels, and watches way too much House of Cards.
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