Managing Volunteers Successfully
Volunteer Canada has been providing volunteer management resources since 1977. Their Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement (2017) is a guide to assess volunteer management practices. The Code is composed of 3 essential elements as follows:
- The value of volunteer involvement:
The value of volunteer involvement begins with understanding that it plays a fundamental role in society, builds strong communities, enlarges the capacity of organizations. This is a personal and highly relational way for individuals to be involved.
- The guiding principles that frame the relationship between the volunteer and non-profit organization:
Volunteer involvement must be reciprocal. Volunteers have rights. They are an important part of the organization that requires appropriate human resources infrastructure to provide a safe and supportive environment. Volunteers have responsibilities. They make a commitment to act with respect for the cause, for the organization’s benefactors, leadership and staff, and for the community served.
- The standards of practice which ensure success:
These are divided into ten areas which provide guidance to be adapted rather than detailed instructions.
The Standards of Practice for Volunteer Involvement
- Mission-Based Approach
- Human Resources
- Infrastructure for Volunteer Involvement
- Evaluation: Tracking Measuring and Reporting
- Volunteer Roles and Recruitment
- Risk Management
- Orientation and Training
- Support and Supervision
- Recognition: Valuing volunteer Involvement
Following is a discussion of the first three standards.
In this type of approach to volunteering, the Board of directors and senior staff acknowledge, articulate, and support the vital role of volunteers. This will be seen in tangible ways:
- Write: The mission statement should clearly articulate the value of volunteers to the organization.
- Approve: The Board approves goals and strategies for volunteer involvement.
- Join: The Board see themselves as volunteers.
- Demonstrate: Include volunteers in planning and decision making.
- Link: Volunteer roles are clearly linked to the mission.
- Invest: Space, equipment and budget should be allocated as required.
- Protect: Safety procedures and insurance should be in place to address liability.
Integration is a key concept in this human resource management approach. All staff are welcomed and treated as valued and integral members of the team, whether paid employees, students, or volunteers. All are given training and support to work effectively together. Policies and practices are applied fairly, and all are welcome to have input in planning and evaluation processes.
Infrastructure for Volunteer Involvement
The organization should adopt a policy framework and procedures that define and support the involvement of volunteers.
Policies often get a bad rap for limiting what can be done, but they are much-needed boundaries. Should just anyone be able to volunteer? Do volunteers know if they are permitted to speak to the media if approached? Do policies support inclusion, accessibility and diversity?
Save time and money by reviewing policies of other organizations but refrain from blindly adopting them. Rather, adapt them to the organization’s unique situation. Finally, review policies periodically to make sure they are being used appropriately and continue to be relevant.
The importance of the volunteer coordinator role cannot be overstated. Their position is vital to leveraging the potential hundreds of thousands of dollars of staff time available to the organization. The person in this role must have a clear job description and possess a diverse set of skills beyond just planning activities. This would include strong interpersonal and communication skills, understanding volunteer motivation, conflict resolution and the development of training, orientation, and evaluation materials. Workshops and seminars are affordable ways to build skills and knowledge and to get certification in volunteer administration.
“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”-Author unknown
How can an organization find volunteers that want to vote for the community they are trying to create? Essentially it is finding the right person for the right task. Further insights into that and the related standards of practice will be covered in part 2…