The process of developing a citywide service plan should increase volunteer opportunities in your city. Which agencies/organizations are participating in this service expansion? Is everyone prepared to take on this expansion of volunteer mobilization and engagement?
Volunteer management resources will be very helpful to your partners and agencies/ organizations that use volunteers. Some of the challenges you might encounter are listed below, along with links to resources to help!
- CHALLENGE: New agencies may not know how to write volunteer job descriptions.
OPPORTUNITY: A major volunteer management resource is an outline for a job description for volunteers. Having a job description helps clarify the volunteer’s task and minimizes misunderstandings or confusion.
- CHALLENGE: Agencies using volunteers are at capacity. How can they take on more volunteers?
OPPORTUNITY: Volunteer management resources may help identify systems or shortcuts to improve efficiency. Additionally, the increased profile of your city’s service initiative may facilitate partnerships where resources can be pooled and capacity expanded. For example, a tutoring program may have no more space where volunteers and students can meet. Partnering with the local library or other facility that has meeting space may be a way to engage more volunteers and help more students.
- CHALLENGE: Sustaining volunteer commitment levels over time and identifying volunteer leaders to coordinate and motivate volunteer activity is an ongoing problem.
OPPORTUNITY: Volunteers want to feel as though their efforts are making a difference. Hold an annual volunteer appreciation event during which volunteers are recognized citywide for their achievements. Volunteer programs need to provide clear expectations, praise, and motivation continuously to keep volunteers dedicated and committed to projects.
- CHALLENGE: Separate, disconnected systems for volunteer intake.
OPPORTUNITY: Creating volunteer intake forms and conducting reference and background checks takes a lot of time. New York City’s innovative solution to this problem was to create a centralized database of the outcomes of volunteers’ background checks that can be referenced by participating agencies. Link to New York’s service plan.
Volunteer Management Resources
Below are selected volunteer management organizations and links to relevant tools and resources.
- HandsOn Network - HandsOn Action Centers near you.
- Idealist.org - Volunteer Management Resource Center
- Corporation for National and Community Service - Volunteer Recruitment and Management was designed for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but may be utilized throughout the year.
- National Assembly of Health and Human Service organizations - Volunteer Management Resources
- National Service Resource Center - eVOLve Briefs - Technical Assistance for Leveraging Volunteers
- Effective Practices Provided by Hands On Network
- Effective Practices for Leveraging Volunteers
- RGK Center for Philanthropy - Retaining Volunteers and Keeping Them Motivated
Volunteer Job Description
Does a volunteer really need a job description? Isn’t that too formal and involve too much paperwork?
It is as important to have a clear job description for a volunteer as it is for a full-time employee. Without an accurate project outline in the beginning, the chances for confusion and disappointment multiply rapidly. A disappointed volunteer is unlikely to be a repeat volunteer.
The process of writing the job description also helps you clarify your own goals and objectives so you can be sure you aren’t giving the volunteer an impossible task.
The job description should include:
- organization’s mission. Volunteers will come to you because they hope to make an impact by helping you. They will want to know what you stand for.
- project description. This is a description of the project that includes the tasks the volunteer needs to accomplish. A clearly defined project helps attract volunteers. Many will be reluctant to take on a project that is not well defined because they’re afraid the project will expand to consume their lives.
- necessary skills. Does the volunteer need to have a particular skill set? Do they need to know how to use particular equipment? Do some research, if necessary, so you can be specific.
- time commitment. Estimate the number of hours the project will take. How many weeks will the volunteer have to complete it? Does the project need to be finished by a certain date? For long-term volunteer commitments such as mentoring, provide the number of hours per week or per month and an expectation of the minimum length of the commitment. For example, Big Brothers/Big Sisters asks its “Bigs” to commit to at least one year.
- work schedule. What hours are required? Days, evenings, weekends, etc.
- Where will volunteers be located? Will they be located at a local nonprofit organization, in schools, going door-to-door, or other specified locations?
- contact information. Who is the point person, and what is the best way for a potential volunteer to get in touch with them? What are the point-person’s hours? Does this person have any flexibility or ability to meet with the volunteer on nights or weekends?
Click here for a template to assist with writing volunteer job descriptions.