Volunteer management – key to nonprofit success

Part three of a three part series


What if you could get eight more hours out of the day? What if you could “clone” yourself five times over? These are unspoken dreams of many a nonprofit executive or college president. While they are unlikely to come true exactly as wished for, it is possible to achieve that magical result. Here’s how.

Hire a volunteer manager. This isn’t an “as needed” position. You need a person dedicated to working with volunteers all the time. This is a proactive position, not a reactive one. You may initially think of this person as another “cost” or “expense.” Our response: a good volunteer manager is an investment that yields positive results to an organization’s bottom line. She ensures that your volunteers have what they need to develop relationships and fundraise.

Here are three things to consider when hiring a volunteer manager. First, create a defined job description and initial schedule of activities. Define the goals and allocate resources prior to making a hire. You set the terms: you don’t ask a new employee to determine what needs to be done. She may have ideas, but the nonprofit needs to be clear in defining expectations and activities that can result in a meaningful impact on the organization’s bottom line.

Second, the executive director or development director needs to allocate consistent time to work with the volunteer manager. The reason for this is to ensure your new employee learns the ins-and-outs of your organization; gains background information on your board members and volunteers; and develops relationships with these leaders so she can best support them.

Third, hire a person with strong skills and experience in working with people, managing projects, and following up. Think outside the box and consider someone who may be older with deep career experience in developing and sustaining relationships, using technology, and sustaining systems. Look for all three skill sets: someone who excels at developing relationships but doesn’t record information in your database is not the right hire. Your volunteer manager serves volunteers and builds your fundraising capacity.

Here are more specifics to consider. A volunteer manager can assist with planning fundraising-related meetings. She can work with volunteer leaders to define the agenda and ensure it is distributed to volunteers in advance of meetings. She can follow up with volunteers between meetings to learn if they need materials or assistance in fulfilling their commitments. She can take minutes at meetings and send them out within 24 hours. She can call and email volunteers to confirm their attendance at meetings. These “administrative” tasks are vital to supporting volunteers: they communicate expectations through actions and set the tone for consistent progress and success.

Here’s the secret: the success of a meeting depends on the time invested before and after. This means everyone comes to meetings knowing the agenda, ready to report on commitments fulfilled, and to engage in meaningful discussions and strategy development that advances fundraising.

Don’t rush into hiring a volunteer manager. Invest time in orienting your new employee. Commit to your fundraising success.


Copyright 2018 – Mel Shaw and Pearl Shaw, CFRE

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on Amazon.com. For help growing your fundraising visit http://www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Images courtesy of 123RF.com

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