Looking At Volunteer Management
Prepared by Syah Putra Shahrul Zahrin
Have you heard of the term “volunteer management”? In essence, volunteer management is the process of developing mechanisms for recruiting, training, engaging, and mobilising both on-the-ground and virtual volunteers for a variety of tasks. Non-profit organisations may efficiently and resourcefully deploy volunteers as needed to give complete support for each of their initiatives and events by managing their volunteers in this manner. Interested to find out more about volunteer management? Read on to discover more about volunteer management, including common pitfalls and benefits.
Table of Contents
ThunderQuote has recently published an article explaining the nature and practical uses of volunteer management systems (VMSs), along with the various VMS options that are currently available on the market. This article serves to complement the one mentioned above by focusing on the practice of volunteer management as a whole, along with some of the common pitfalls and benefits organisations may encounter or experience during this process. It also contains several case studies on the experiences of various organisations as they attempt to manage their volunteers..
So what is volunteer management? Volunteer management is the process of creating systems for recruiting, training, engaging and mobilising both on-the-ground and virtual volunteers for various activities. Managing their volunteers in such a way enables organisations to effectively and resourcefully deploy them whenever necessary to provide comprehensive support for each of their projects and events.
Strategies in Volunteer Management
Volunteer management goes beyond simply assigning volunteers certain activities when they agree to participate in an event or a cause. It in fact, deals with the entire process that an organisation needs to go through from recruiting the volunteers to ensuring that they are dispatched effectively. There are 5 main steps in the volunteer management process.
The first step is to find the right volunteers with the appropriate skillsets or backgrounds, and this may differ depending on the organisation and the projects at hand. For example, the expertise of volunteers with first aid or disaster management experience would be helpful in the event of a flood, while volunteers with teaching skills might be more valuable in community outreach programs instead.
It is therefore important for organisations to collect volunteers’ personal data (such as educational background, languages spoken, and additional skills) during the volunteer management process to ensure that their skills may be utilised in the most effective way possible by allowing them to work on something that they are passionate about.
The next step after recruitment is to keep the volunteers involved by ensuring that there are always ample opportunities for them to pitch in and contribute to the cause. A common mistake made by organisations is assigning volunteers to the wrong tasks and not making full use of their talents, which leads to decreased productivity and a potentially increased turnover rate.
Organisations may also underutilise their volunteers, which leads to them feeling unproductive and feeling that they should take their talents elsewhere. This can be avoided through proper identification of volunteer strengths and by organising a wide variety of activities to suit the needs of individual volunteers.
As an organisation expands and gets larger, it becomes harder to keep track of the locations and tasks or responsibilities of individual volunteers.. Having proper volunteer management procedures in place and implementing a volunteer management system allows for organisations to automate these processes and keep track of on-the-ground happenings in real time.
Through these systems, organisations can also keep track of their individual volunteers’ levels of contribution, and generate reports on their progress over time. Collecting such data also allows organisations to identify volunteers with the greatest contributions and acknowledge or reward them for their efforts.
Nonprofit organisations typically find it difficult to retain their volunteers without the help of a proper volunteer management system This is due to the complexity of managing a large number of volunteers, each with their own unique sets of skills and expectations Proper channels should therefore be put in place to allow for volunteers to express their concerns, and for them to give their feedback, in order to prevent high turnover rates from occurring.
Organisations should also allow volunteers to appreciate the fruits of their labours by letting them observe the on-the-ground impacts that their efforts are having, as this provides them with a sense of achievement and keeps them attached or committed to the work that they do.
Proper communication is essential for ensuring that all volunteers stay on the same page, regardless of whether they are in the office or out in the field . Having a proper volunteer management strategy in place allows organisations to have a centralised communication channel for relaying and receiving information both to and from their volunteers.
These channels could take the form of emails, social media platforms, or the implementation of a visitor management system, which can help to automate the communication process. , It is, however, important to ensure that the communication channel of choice is both convenient for its users and systematic to prevent any misunderstandings amongst staff members.
Types of Volunteer Involvement
Volunteering opportunities typically come in several different forms. NGOs should try to understand and identify the different categories of volunteer work that staff members may take on to better plan out their manpower requirements to meet the needs of the organisation.
Long-term volunteering involves regularly-scheduled, supervised, ongoing commitments by volunteers to the organisation. These volunteer programs usually aim to strengthen the local community or communities around them, and may involve the continued use of specific skill sets such as teaching or training.
Short-term volunteering usually involves working directly with the local community and it typically focuses on cultural training. While this kind of volunteer work allows for volunteers to familiarise themselves with and interact with local cultures, a proper plan must be put in place to ensure that their efforts have lasting positive impacts on the community.
Administrative volunteering, an often-overlooked area of volunteer work,is when volunteers offer their assistance or support to an organisation’s office or administrative staff, to help them with activities like internal clerical work, data entry and reception.
Skills-based volunteers are usually professionals with a niche expertise who are willing to offer their services to nonprofit organisations. These services can range from legal work, PR, to even event planning. For the most part, these volunteers offer their services on a per-event basis, instead of offering them continuously.
Virtual volunteering is usually for supporters who cannot physically attend an organisation’s event, but still would like to participate or contribute to its cause, which leads them to take on work in the form of content creation or even social media advertising. Organisations may make use of this type of volunteer work to provide them with a boost to their presence on social media, and increase their geographical reach to wider audiences.
Smaller organisations are typically hesitant to upgrade their volunteer management processes, and it might take some convincing to get them to do so. The following case studies show how various organisations made use of effective volunteer management techniques to improve their organisational operations:
- In 2018, a case study was conducted by Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin to investigate the relationship or correlation between the management practices of Global Peace Mission Malaysia, and its rate of volunteer retention. The study found that proper volunteer management did indeed lead to a greater rate of retention for registered volunteers, with appreciation of individual quality being cited as one of the beneficial practices that lead to this improvement.
- Similar to the previous study, this 2020 case study by Heetae Cho also examined the relationship between volunteer management and retention rate (or volunteer intentions to keep participating in activities). Using data from the participants of Singapore’s Chingay Parade 2018, the researchers found that volunteers were more likely to continue participating when there were positive volunteer management processes in place, with the implementation of a reward system, a flexible schedule, proper training, and good social interactions being mentioned as good management practices that lead to this positive experience.
- In this case study by Sairoop Technologies, one of their clients in the field of education sought their assistance to improve communications with their volunteers and keep track of volunteer activities. Implementing Volunteer for Salesforce allowed the client to engage with their volunteers on a deeper level than before, which effectively lead to an increase in participation.
- Volunteer management is the process of creating systems for recruiting, training, engaging and mobilising both on-the-ground and virtual volunteers.
- Established strategies for volunteer management include recruitment, involvement, tracking, retention and communication.
- Several categories of volunteer involvement opportunities include long-term, short-term, administrative, skills-based and virtual volunteering.
- Case studies by Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Heetae Cho and Sairoop Technologies show that proper volunteer management leads to higher volunteer retention rates and increased involvement in activities