NPL 473  Nonprofit Leadership

Designing and Managing Volunteer Programs (Jeffrey  Brudney)


“The volunteer program is a vehicle for facilitating and coordinating the work efforts of volunteers and paid staff toward the attainment of organizational goals.”


1.                              Establishing the rationale for volunteer involvement

a.       “Recruiting is the third step” (after determining the reason and designing valuable work assignments)

b.      Not necessarily a cost savings, but may be “cost effective”

c.       Possible purposes include

                                                                           i.      Efficiency

                                                                         ii.      Client relationships

                                                                        iii.      Community networking

                                                                       iv.      Reach clientele otherwise inaccessible

                                                                         v.      Leverage professional skills not already in organization

                                                                       vi.      Staff an experimental program

                                                                      vii.      Fundraising credibility

2.                              Involving paid staff in volunteer program design

a.       Major task is developing good working relationship between staff and volunteers

                                                                           i.      Decision to use volunteers must be agreed on by staff

                                                                         ii.      Provide training to staff on working effectively with volunteers

b.      Develop conduct codes, as comparable as possible to those for employees

c.       Pay attention to “psychological contract” with volunteers

3.                              Integrating the volunteer program into the organization—Recruitment may require structural adjustment

a.       Ad hoc, spontaneous

b.      Volunteer Center or United Way as recruitment agency (recruiter may or may not know needs of your organization; organization does not develop own capacity)

c.       Decentralized internal recruiting (easy way to start, but will produce varying results depending on department head)

d.      Centralized internal recruiting function (most effort, but greatest control and capacity development)

4.                              Creating positions of program leadership—“Director of Volunteer Services”

a.       Two approaches:

                                                                           i.      Personnel management approach (supports line departments, accountability is to line supervisor)

                                                                         ii.      Program management approach (responsible for training & supervision of all volunteers)

b.      Should be treated as other department heads

c.       Duties:

                                                                           i.      Volunteer recruitment & publicity

                                                                         ii.      Needs assessment (workloads and responsibilities)

                                                                        iii.      Screen & interview applicants, maintain records, placement in job assignments, liaison supervision, performance monitoring

                                                                       iv.      Orientation, training, evaluation, and recognition of volunteers

                                                                         v.      Chief internal advocate for volunteers and their use

5.                              Preparing job descriptions for volunteer positions (treat volunteer positions like paid ones, only more so—they give their time)

a.       No intrinsic difference in job description for “volunteer” vs. “paid”—so must develop explicit internal agreements about boundaries

b.      Survey employees to determine opportunities, based on

                                                                           i.      Work that they enjoy

                                                                         ii.      Work that they dislike

                                                                        iii.      Work for which they lack time or expertise

                                                                       iv.      Work would like to do but have no time to do

c.       Work that might well be delegated to volunteers includes

                                                                           i.      Work performed periodically, rather than daily or on an inflexible basis

                                                                         ii.      Work not requiring specialized training or expertise

                                                                        iii.      Work more effectively done by persons with specialized training

                                                                       iv.      Work for which occupant feels uncomfortable or unprepared

                                                                         v.      Work for which agency has no in-house expertise

                                                                       vi.      Work that could be performed “episodically”—occasional basis, on short time intervals

                                                                      vii.      Work that could be performed “virtually” (e-mail or Internet)

d.      Result will be two sets of job descriptions—for employees and for volunteers

                                                                           i.      Paid employees handle most important daily functions, volunteers handle periodic or specialized work

                                                                         ii.      Neither group will occupy a position reserved for the other

                                                                        iii.      Job description specifications should include:

1.      Job title and purpose

2.      Benefits to occupant

3.      Qualifications for position

4.      Time requirements (eg, hours per week)

5.      Proposed starting date (and ending date, if applicable)

6.      Job responsibilities and activities

7.      Authority invested in position

8.      Reporting relationships and supervision

e.       Emerging jobs:  Virtual Volunteering & Episodic Volunteering

                                                                           i.      Virtual volunteering requires “organizational readiness”

                                                                         ii.      Episodic volunteering requires minimizing legal liability (eg, direct contact with vulnerable populations or privileged data)

6.                              Meeting the needs of volunteers—Other half of the equation (to this point, focus has been on agency needs)

a.       Volunteering is prosocial but not self-sacrificing.  Altruism is only one motivation—others include

                                                                           i.      Interesting activity

                                                                         ii.      Learning experience

                                                                        iii.      Resume building

                                                                       iv.      Social networking/friendships

b.      Motivation changes over time; agency must be prepared to adjust work assignments accordingly.

7.                              Managing volunteers

a.       Different from managing paid employees—volunteers are much less dependent on the organization.

                                                                           i.      May demand more flexibility in job assignments/work hours

                                                                         ii.      May not be as faithful to agency rules and procedures

b.      Sanctions do not work as a management tool (although they may be “terminated”; requires a lighter touch.

c.       “Management by partnership”—team building, trust, cooperation, challenge, growth, achievement, values, excitement—all work for managing volunteers (actually, works well for employees, too).

d.      Success of volunteer programs depends on

                                                                           i.      Screening to ensure appropriate entry and placement

                                                                         ii.      Orientation and training to provide needed skills and outlook

                                                                        iii.      Ongoing managerial support to ensure that time is not wasted

8.                              Evaluating and recognizing volunteer effort

a.       Performance evaluation provides opportunity to review worthwhile and visible results

b.      Possible procedures for performance evaluation

                                                                           i.      Appraisal by supervisor (line staff or volunteer coordinator)

                                                                         ii.      Self appraisal (should cover satisfaction with

1.      job duties

2.      schedule

3.      support

4.      training

5.      opportunities for personal growth

6.      management and supervision of volunteers

c.       Recognition (recognize staff as well as volunteer)

                                                                           i.      Events

                                                                         ii.      Simple “thank you”

                                                                        iii.      Letters of recommendation

                                                                       iv.      Employment (“Try before you buy”)—but be careful not to require volunteer experience

d.      Evaluation of volunteer program

                                                                           i.      Compilation of inputs (number of volunteers, number of hours, number of client contacts, etc.)

                                                                         ii.      Calculation of “equivalent dollar value” of input

                                                                        iii.      Calculation of “cost effectiveness”—ratio of equivalent dollar value generated to costs associated with program—and “cost benefit”—ratio of comparative market value of functions performed to organizational expenditures.

                                                                       iv.      Review aggregate performance of volunteers in assisting clients, addressing community problems, expediting agency operations, and meeting other objectives

                                                                         v.      Assessing processes of volunteer program—volunteer satisfaction, recruiting success, turnover, etc.




© 2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 2 April 2008