How To Streamline Volunteer Management

This is Part 2 of a three part series on recruiting and managing volunteers so you can move up to the next level of nonprofit effectiveness and grow the impact of your organization.

Part 1: Volunteer Recruitment

Part 2: Volunteer Management (You Are Here)

Part 3: Project Management


How To Manage A Large Number of Volunteers Effectively

Sometimes we feel nervous to take on new volunteers because it creates more work for us…

New volunteers should create more free time for us and expand our ability to get things done.

This process will help you transition from feeling overwhelmed about managing volunteers to having more freedom and getting way more done.

With a simple set up, the right tools, and a bit of additional management experience you’ll be able to lead a whole team of volunteers effectively.

Here are the three things that we will need for volunteer management:

  1. Volunteer Roster
  2. Communication System
  3. Project Coordination System

Your Volunteer Roster

Purpose: A volunteer roster allows you to organize all of your volunteers and reach them when needed. When you need help on a specific project you (or anyone else on your team) will know exactly who to reach out to and how.

To have an effective volunteer roster you need the following information:

Name & Location – understanding a persons location is important because you may have some volunteer opportunities that are physical rather than virtual. Knowing where people are geographically will help you to connect them as opportunities arise.

Contact Information – you need to be able to get in touch with someone once you have an opportunity for them. Having their email and phone number is a must. You should also have a regular dispatch to keep your team of volunteers informed about the progress of your projects.

Role / Skillset – include which role the volunteer applied for or the skill set that they have so that way you know how to filter your volunteers and put the right person on the right project.

Interests / Motivations – interest and motivations will also help you to connect your volunteers with the right projects. Truly understanding your team will help you keep them engaged by making sure they are getting the fulfillment they were seeking when they joined your team.

You can start your volunteer roster in a spreadsheet.

I recommend using a Google sheet so that way you can share the roster with multiple people in your organization.

You can also use a CRM or other organization tool that fits your needs.

Reviewing the communication system requirements before you set up your roster may be helpful. Understanding how your communication will work might influence how you organize your roster.

Your Communication System

Purpose: To reach the volunteers you need to, at the right time, and without overwhelming yourself.

If you’re managing volunteers without a simple management system you’re probably overwhelmed with back-and-forth emails and meetings.

A documented system and a few leverage tools here will eliminate 90% of your back-and-forth communication and save you hours of time.

An effective communication system requires the following:

Organized Roster

This is a pre-requisite to smooth and streamlined team communication. Your organized roster allows you to connect the right people with the right projects AND communicate with them quickly and easily.

Email or Messaging System

Do you want to eliminate back-and-forth threads and repetitive emailing or messaging?

Streamline communication with an email marketing platform or a tool like Slack.

You’ll need a platform that can:

  1. Allow you to message everyone, a select group, or an individual based on your needs.
  2. Organize and simplify multiple responses.

Example: Imagine you are launching a new campaign. To make the campaign successful you will need a new webpage, a few designs, and someone to help write compelling text. You may also need someone with some social media skills to help you market the campaign once it’s finished. If you have the proper roster and the right communication system you’ll be able to find the right volunteers that match the skills you need and bring them together into a campaign coalition to help you get the project done.

Response System

You be thinking to yourself that even if you can communicate with all your volunteers through a simple email or messaging system, you’re still going to get a lot of questions back.

Problem Solver #1: Allow for communication between volunteers and your other teammates. Don’t be a bottle neck for projects within your organization. Set your team up with a communication system like Slack or Trello that allows them to coordinate their efforts (more on this in Part 3).

Problem Solver #2: Communicate effectively. Don’t answer the same question twice. Using a communication system, or something as simple as a shared Google Doc will allow you to have an FAQ bulletin your team can reference. You can also do one video conference call with all volunteers and provide a recording for those unable to attend.

Organization = Freedom: Your team should not be coming to you with every question about each project. This type of project management quickly becomes overwhelming and is not sustainable. Instead, use organization + communication tools to make sure you get your team the resources they need and eliminate risk of you becoming a bottle neck for getting things done.

We’ll cover the details of this in Part 3

Project Coordination

This part is going to help you to be organized with your projects in a way that will reduce if not totally eliminate back-and-forth questions.

The key to effectively communicating with multiple parties is to have a shared board where everyone can see the discussion. The simplest solution here is as easy as a shared Google document. You can also get more sophisticated with slack channels or other communication boards.

I’ll share an example of this with you in Part 3.

Questions & Feedback

If you have any questions or comments about this guide, please let me know by reaching out to me here:

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