This brief article outlines the principles of successful day to day volunteer management to help you support, retain and recognise your volunteers.
Shared vision and values
One of the simplest ways to help create a great team and volunteer environment is to have a shared vision and make sure that people understand how their contribution fits in with what you are achieving and who you are helping as a whole.
Use a volunteer handbook or develop a volunteer policy to underpin your volunteer management by establishing values, beliefs and direction for volunteer involvement. Share this policy with all existing staff and volunteers as well as during the induction process, when you are recruiting for volunteers. This is more important than you think. It needs to be talked about often and referred to in every major decision.
Living your values
Staff or senior volunteers need to demonstrate behaviour in accordance with these values and volunteers should be recognised when they do the same. On a day to day basis, this can be as simple as a gesture or verbal praise when appropriate. More in-depth reinforcement can be done by engaging volunteers in constructive feedback, surveys and decision making.
Setting clear activities, tasks and goals shows that you value their time, skills and contribution.
Make sure volunteers are fully briefed on the priority tasks for the day. You may also find it helpful to have a notice board or the digital equivalent that volunteers have easy sight of, where key activities can be written down as a reminder enabling volunteers to take control of how they achieve these tasks reduces the time spent by the volunteer manager making decisions about their work. Empowered volunteers are more likely to achieve good results than those that are dependent.
Ask for input from volunteers when planning or implementing significant changes to benefit from their insight and experiences and to increase buy-in from the outset.
Having a supervisor available to volunteers ensures they feel valued and supported whilst they are undertaking their role. By greeting volunteers, having regular interactions and scheduling regular catch-ups, supervisors can make themselves accessible to volunteers and promote an open channel of communication.
Regular, planned catch-ups with volunteers provide a chance to discuss any issues, identify areas for development and training and ensure the volunteer’s expectations (alongside the charity’s needs) are being met.
Engagement – emails, newsletters and social media
Encourage volunteers to sign up for any newsletter as well and follow the charity on social media.
These channels can help a volunteer feel engaged with the overall work of the charity and for them to see how their role feeds into the bigger picture.
A volunteer email list could also be used to send ‘thank you’ notes, updates, and volunteering newsletters to them as well as asking volunteers for their feedback and comments. Take note that you follow typical GDPR regulations and basic email protocol.
Make sure paper copies of your newsletters are available so that volunteers not on email don’t miss out!
Keeping your volunteers
Keeping volunteers relies on good volunteer management that ensures volunteers’ motivational needs are met, that they feel valued and that their contribution is recognised. If the main reason a person is volunteering is to meet new people, don’t put them in an isolated role. If a key motivation is skills development, ensure training opportunities are considered.
Talk about what motivates or inspires them during your regular catch-ups. They may change over time so this is particularly important not to forget this area or make assumptions when speaking to long-term volunteers.
Don’t forget that the main motivation for volunteering is usually because people want to help – ensure you have meaningful tasks for volunteers from the start. Provide feedback to your volunteers on the impact their contribution makes to individuals and the work as a whole.
Whilst a large part of volunteer management comes down to conversations and support, having the policies and procedures written down and easily accessible will give direction, support your decision making and reinforce expectations and boundaries. Policies are the guardrails for your charity, make sure they are regularly referred to.
As well as having their role description, volunteer agreement and a copy of their main contacts name and contact details, volunteers may well have to have an understanding of your:
- Data protection policy
- Safeguarding policy
- Health and safety policy
- Expenses policy