Volunteer coordinators make the world go round.
I’ve worked with them, volunteered for them, and I personally know a few. What they do isn’t easy. Finding individuals to engage in a cause, often doing so with minimal resources, is tough.
So seriously, thank you.
Between recruiting, stewarding and organizing volunteers, it’s understandable that things can get hectic. As a sector we all want rockstar volunteers, but staff are critical in helping to set the stage for success!
How do truly great volunteer coordinators manage to do this? With actionable steps, preparation, and perhaps a touch of magic.
1. They’re engaged.
Engagement matters in any career, but for volunteer management, this is especially the case. Staff who are in tune with the needs and aspirations of their volunteers are more likely to deliver experiences that resonate with their audience.
2. They’re flexible.
Volunteer coordinators understand that situations arise, people bow out, and that things take time. That’s why they’re flexible and willing to adapt to change.
3. They understand that they’re delivering an experience.
Volunteers may get involved out of the goodness of their hearts, but dedication alone is not enough to keep them. If volunteers don’t feel like they’re making an impact or that their needs are being met, then they won’t stick around. That’s why great coordinators know that volunteer management demands the right mix of scheduling, organization, communication, stewardship, and customer service.
4. They hold volunteers accountable.
Striking the right balance when asking something of volunteers is important. While we don’t want to ask for too much, we shouldn’t make the mistake of asking for too little either. Volunteers who feel a sense of responsibility for their part will feel and do better for the organization. The result for staff is a more enriching volunteer experience and an impactful program.
5. They collaborate with other departments.
When departments function in silos, the potential for the entire organization is stunted. Teams that communicate with each other stand to benefit from the synergies of their work. Maybe someone from the marketing team can share pointers on how to promote an opportunity, or the development team can send donors your way who want to get more involved. (If there isn’t a structure in place for doing this already, it’s worth starting the conversation!)
6. They’re open to process improvements.
Volunteer coordinators don’t need to be techies to be great at what they do, nor do they need to upend systems that already work. Still, great coordinators understand that it is logistically challenging to manage activities and communicate across departments. If there’s a platform out there that can help them track their volunteers, or if there are tricks that can be applied to their excel spreadsheets, then they’re not afraid to look into it.
7. They know when to push back.
Volunteer programs are beasts in that there is a wide variety of stakeholders. Coordinators aren’t just thinking about their volunteers – they’re thinking about the constituents who are being served, their directors, and other departments who may have a vested, but separate, interest in the program. Great coordinators understand the need for setting expectations, communicating priorities, and being accommodating to these stakeholders within reason.
8. They stay on top of trends.
Volunteer management is a robust profession with ever-changing capabilities, thanks in part to technology and thought-leaders who are out on the ground. Stellar volunteer coordinators are on top of these trends, exchanging insights with like-minded professionals, and always looking for ways to improve their practice.
9. They’re resilient.
No one is made of stone. When someone has a bad volunteer experience, or negatively affects the experience of the larger group, it can be easy to internalize the mistakes that contributed to the situation. However, great volunteer coordinators don’t allow the scars from one experience to settle; they learn, they get better and they grow.
10. They care.
There are hard requirements and skills that make for superb volunteer coordinators, but the ones who separate themselves from the rest are the ones that truly care. You can literally hear it in someone’s voice when the mission of an organization inspires them, and speaking from personal experience, this is a real motivator for others.
Volunteer Program staff are the bridge between an organization’s work and the community members who might get involved. By doing all of these things, volunteer coordinators have the ability to mobilize both their volunteers and the mission.
Did you have an incredible experience thanks to a volunteer coordinator? What made that experience special for you?