NFP Volunteer Engagement & Coordination

NFP Volunteering – Part 2

Part 1 in this series of posts on NFP Volunteering argued that succession planning in most non-profit organisations cannot be separated from volunteer training, development, and support.

Given non-profits’ heavy reliance on their volunteer workforce it is important that they take care to coordinate their volunteer efforts and optimise their engagement. Surprisingly, it can often be the case that no coordinator role is assigned, and that volunteers are dealt with on a somewhat ad hoc basis.

Those who do have a coordination system may have some visible structures and processes, but a somewhat hidden success factor is the existence of positive or negative reinforcing loops within the system. Designing positive reinforcement for volunteer engagement and development should therefore be part of your volunteer coordination (and recognition) program.

As suggested in the header image above, effective volunteer coordination can be likened to a conductor paying attention to each part of the orchestra and the musical score. Recruiting volunteers is only one small part of the coordination role, and as you reflect on the range of matters requiring attention, you may want to consider appointing a coordination team rather than assuming one person can do it all.

Volunteering Victoria offers an excellent Volunteer Management Toolkit, containing resources for each of the eight stages of the Volunteer Lifecycle. Volunteering Australia has adopted eight National Standards for Volunteer Involvement which reflect the volunteer life-cycle and cover other critical success factors affecting the quality of volunteer engagement. The 8X8 chessboard chart below cross references these stages and dimensions.

Justice Connect’s NFP Law service has published a National Volunteer Guide (with input from Volunteering Australia) which addresses legal aspects of volunteering and volunteer coordination. They also offer very useful links to volunteer matching organisations for those seeking volunteers with particular skills and interests.

The Essential Guide to Managing Volunteers in Your Nonprofit is a US guide published by VolunteerPro which could be readily adapted for local use, alongside the other resources listed above.

Assigning a volunteer coordination role to a senior director (or team) is one way to ensure that these developmental opportunities are acted on, while prospective leaders are nurtured through a series of positive engagements which support them as they grow into more senior roles. Your deputy chair (or Vice-President) is an ideal candidate for leadership in this area, as they will usually have a keen interest in helping to shape the future leadership of the organisation.

Acknowledging the value and fragility of your volunteer workforce, it is important that coordination goes beyond recruitment to offer support for their engagement and development. This includes monitoring of demands on their time so that they do not feel overloaded. This is not only a question of ensuring the workload for a single event or activity is shared equitably, but also checking the cumulative effect of multiple events and responsibilities over time (see also my earlier post re volunteer capacity).

See also:

ICD Volunteer Management Policy

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