Volunteers are the real MVPs of any organization - without them, many nonprofits like yours wouldn't be able to do the amazing work you do. That's why volunteer management is such an important part of any civic organization's success. It's essential to make sure your volunteers have the best experience possible and feel appreciated for their contributions while making a positive impact on your cause - it's what sets great nonprofits apart!

What is volunteer management?

The meaning is in its name - volunteer management is all about managing the volunteers in your organization. This means recruiting, training, supervising, and retaining volunteers to complete tasks that will help your nonprofit achieve its goals and mission.

In this article, we'll explore some of the most important pieces of volunteer management and how to make sure your volunteers are giving their best to your cause.

When it comes down to it, the volunteer management lifecycle is a great way to improve and maintain the effectiveness of your volunteer program. It's all about planning, organizing, leading, and managing to help your organization reach its mission and goals.

1. Recruiting

Recruiting volunteers is sometimes the most difficult part of the volunteer management lifecycle. Without volunteers, there is no volunteer management! It's a good thing you already created a plan in the previous step. When recruiting volunteers, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Reach out to your existing network: Use your existing network of contacts to find potential volunteers. They may already have an interest in the cause and could be willing to offer their time and skills. Remember the list you made during your plan? Ask them to reach out to their friends and colleagues! 
  • Leverage social media: Use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to advertise volunteer opportunities. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your contacts to share your posts on their profiles. Keep in mind the type of social media platforms your typical volunteers use. That's where you'll want to focus most of your efforts. 
  • Launch an online application form: Make it easy for potential volunteers to apply by creating an online application form. This will help you easily keep track of all the applicants and their details. Remember to include the roles, descriptions, and tasks in the form, whether plainly or as a link. 
  • Reach out to local schools and universities: Many schools and universities offer internships or volunteer programs for their students. These are great opportunities to maximize the mutual benefit of volunteering.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Recruiting Nonprofit Volunteers: 15+ Tips to Help You Sign Up Volunteers

2. Training

Onboarding and training volunteers before the volunteer event begins is essential. To make sure everyone is having a positive experience, they need to know what they're doing, where they need to be, who to report to, etc.

Ideally, a couple of days prior, provide volunteers with a detailed orientation that outlines your expectations and their responsibilities. This should include an overview of the event, the volunteer role, and any necessary safety or legal information. Make sure to provide volunteers with contact information for the event coordinator or other helpful contacts in case they have questions.

After the orientation, give your volunteers any additional training necessary to complete their volunteer duties.

3. Scheduling

Once your volunteers are trained, it's time to schedule and match the right volunteers to the right roles. This process should be fairly simple to do because you've already collected information about the volunteers' skillsets and interests in the application. 

Make sure to keep detailed records of who is assigned to which roles. Contact each volunteer to confirm their role and to provide any additional information they may need.

4. Engaging

It’s important to keep volunteers actively connected to your nonprofit to avoid becoming "out of sight, out of mind." 

To enhance engagement, you can:

  1. Create enjoyable events and activities to foster connections among volunteers and make their involvement more enjoyable.
  2. Send regular newsletters and updates to help volunteers understand the impact of their contributions and stay informed about the organization's achievements.
  3. Encourage microdonations, making volunteers feel personally invested in the nonprofit's mission and vision, contributing to community goals, and deepening their connection to the organization.

5. Retaining

Creating lifelong volunteers is essential for long-term nonprofit success. Retention efforts and post-event engagement are critical to keeping volunteers engaged.

To foster lifelong volunteers, consider the following:

  1. Express appreciation and gratitude to volunteers through thank-you notes and other forms of acknowledgment after events.
  2. Celebrate milestones in their volunteer journey to make them feel part of something special. Tracking key stats like hours served and the monetary value of their contributions can be facilitated by a volunteer management system.
  3. Provide opportunities for volunteers to voice concerns or issues in real time, enabling prompt problem resolution. Feedback forums within volunteer management platforms can help monitor volunteer sentiment effectively.

6. Reporting

Reporting showcases the impact of volunteers, attracting donors, and kickstarting the volunteer management cycle. Accurate reports on the number of volunteers and their hours help donors see the value of their contributions and may lead to grant opportunities.

Furthermore, accurate reporting can also attract new volunteers. When prospective volunteers observe the positive contributions of current volunteers, they are more likely to join. Encouraging volunteers to report their hours involves using user-friendly volunteer management systems, sending reminders after events, and providing incentives or running competitions to reward volunteers who track their hours.

Read more: How to use the 6 Step Volunteer Management Cycle to make your Volunteer Program Soar

Why is volunteer management important?

With proper volunteer management, you can ensure your program runs smoothly and has maximum effectiveness.

  • When you recruit, you have the help you need.
  • When you provide training, your volunteers are more confident about their contribution.
  • When you have a schedule, you know which responsibilities are covered.
  • When you engage volunteers, you're keeping everyone focused on the end goal.
  • When you retain volunteers, you keep your program alive.
  • When you report, you attract supporters to your cause.

When any step of the volunteer management lifecycle is compromised, you risk the success of your nonprofit.

What happens when nonprofits don't practice proper volunteer management?

Iif you don't prioritize your supporters' experience, they won't have a reason to stay. Without a plan for getting, keeping, and engaging volunteers, they'll likely have a bad experience when they show up to help. This, combined with a lack of opportunities, means they won't stay engaged for long.

It's cheaper and easier to retain current volunteers than get new ones, so volunteer management and retention should be a priority. Plans for making a positive environment, providing helpful activities, and measuring your program's success will help people stay around.

Tips for Volunteer Management

You want to take your supporter engagement to the next level, but you're wondering how to do it. Here are the best practices for volunteer management. When you take these tips and tailor them to fit your organization's needs, you'll have a complete plan on how to recruit, manage, and retain volunteers.

Understand the various types of volunteers

When it comes to volunteering, there are many different ways to get involved! Offering a range of activities is a great way to increase engagement and give people lots of options to help out.

As you plan your volunteer program, make sure to include various types of roles that volunteers might be interested in.

  • Skills-Based Volunteering: This could be anything such as accounting, legal help, PR help, and more. Learn more about skills-based volunteering.
  • Supporting Events: Volunteers can be a great help on the day of the event, doing tasks like setting up, registering guests, leading conversations, and selling merchandise.
  • Long-Term Volunteering: These volunteers have a consistent, ongoing duty like mentors, tutors, coaches, etc.
  • Administrative Support: This could be anything from clerical work, data entry, or just being a receptionist. Although these roles might not seem critical, consider that these volunteers might be the first encounter someone has with your nonprofit. Learn more about building customer service skills in volunteers.
  • Advocacy Work: These volunteers may take on tasks like getting signatures on petitions, spreading the word about the cause or campaign, or organizing events to discuss it.
  • Virtual Volunteering: Working from home or anywhere where they have access is an excellent way for volunteers to get involved without being physically there.
  • Committee or Board Service: Committees usually take on particular tasks, like event organizing, whereas board members have a broad range of duties such as attending meetings, discussing strategies, and casting votes to determine which decisions are best for the organization's success.

Recruit strategically

Recruiting and keeping volunteers can be a tough challenge. So, how do you get people to invest their time and energy in your mission? A great way to do it is to show them the impact their work has on the community.

By demonstrating that their efforts make a real difference, you will motivate them to continue to support your mission.

Read more here: How to Use Social Impact to Recruit Volunteers

Volunteers of different ages will be looking for different things from a volunteer role. Whereas Gen Z volunteers tend to focus on social impact, and prefer video & text interaction, Gen X and Baby Boomers will have more time to devote and a broader skillset to leverage, but are more likely to use email and Facebook. How and where you recruit will directly influence the types of volunteers you find.

Read more here: How to Engage Volunteers and Donors of Every Generation

Celebrate your active volunteers

Many volunteers can lose interest or become too busy with other obligations, leaving you in a pinch to find replacements. Show appreciation for your volunteers to encourage them to stick around. Give them something to look forward to and show them how much you value them. As a volunteer manager, it’s essential to find ways to maintain your volunteers and have them stay engaged and dedicated. We have 15 tips to help you retain your non-profit volunteers, making sure they come back for more.

Read more here: The Ultimate Guide to Retaining Nonprofit Volunteers: 15 tips to help you keep volunteers engaged and coming back

Encourage leadership

Give your most devoted volunteers the power to push your mission even further. Give them training and allow them to organize events.

Teach your most loyal volunteers how to apply for volunteer grants from their employers. You want to make sure they know how the process works so they can take advantage of the opportunity. They’ll feel proud, and even more connected to your nonprofit, knowing they were able to help you secure a significant sponsorship. 

Choosing the best volunteer management software

Now that you’ve got a handle on managing your volunteers you might find yourself with a different challenge. How do you keep track of your volunteers’ skillsets, handle event scheduling, waivers, and reporting on impact?

Move those clunky spreadsheets to the trash and start using volunteer management software. But before making a purchase, we’ll help you gain a solid understanding of the features offered and measure them against your organization's needs.

Communication and Engagement Features

Communicating with volunteers directly from the software is a huge timesaver. You can even schedule emails to be sent out at a later date. Plus, you can use self-check-in and attendance tracking for volunteers in a mobile app. Options for multiple-tier communication (email, SMS, in-app messaging) should be available to maximize open rates. Volunteer management software also provides communication, personal schedules, and access to documents for volunteers right within the mobile app.

Volunteer Database Features

A secure database stores all volunteer profiles and activity information. Plus, you can easily filter and sort data for whatever you need. You should be able to segment your database based on organizations, programs, and opportunities.

Screening Features

Screening volunteer applications in one place? Yes, please! Your volunteer management software should allow you to define roles with requirements so it's easier to find opportunities that appeal to potential volunteers.

Recruitment Features

Keep your organization looking professional and organized with volunteer sign-up pages that list available opportunities and shifts. You can customize the volunteer application process and make it easy for groups to sign up!

Scheduling Features

Streamline how your leaders assign tasks with bulk actions and shift duplication. View schedules in a list or calendar format, and use automated matching to assign volunteers based on qualifications, availability, and conflicts. Plus, group scheduling and mobile schedule management make it even easier!

Tracking and Reporting Features

Grants usually come with a few prerequisites, like the number of donations collected, the overall volunteer hours, and so on. Well, these can all be stored in the software. Use volunteer management software to manage volunteers and track their hours, plus get a summary of when they check in and out. You can even generate custom reports for volunteer program data.

Read more about Best Practices: How to Track Volunteer Hours for Your Nonprofit Efficiently

Civic Champs is our personal favorite!

Of course, there are many options out there but we're partial to our solution. That's because we took every step of volunteer management into account when we developed and continue to improve our software. We understand that volunteer management is essential for any nonprofit organization that wants to reach its full potential.

Read more about: The Best Volunteer Management Software Solutions (Updated for 2023)

With the right tools like Civic Champs, it's easy to keep volunteers engaged and motivated, as well as track hours and schedule shifts. Whether you're a new or experienced volunteer manager, you'll be able to keep your organization running efficiently and effectively with our solution.

Get in touch with one of our experts to get a tour of how Civic Champs will help you master the art of volunteer management.

About the Author:
Geng Wang

As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.