Starting Out as a Volunteer Manager: Advice from a Beginner

BeginningGuest post by Emma Bennett

Starting out as a Volunteer Manager can be a tough task – especially if it’s your first time in the role. I spent years and years volunteering and management seemed like an appropriate new challenge.

I was lucky enough to have previous management experience from work, but volunteers cannot be managed like employees. They have different motivations, needs, wants and concerns. I’m still in my first year of volunteer management and I love it, but it has come with its fair share of challenges.

However, the best thing about it is cultivating great volunteers; watching their confidence grow, building on their goals and being their source of support.

I’ve picked up a few things over the past few months that have helped me transition smoothly from a volunteer to a volunteer coordinator. They are pretty simple, but they lay a firm foundation to get you going with your volunteer program.

  1. Learn everyone’s name

This is so simple and so obvious, but it’s the most important thing. Find out the name of every volunteer, trustee or friend. If you struggle with names, write them down or ask volunteers to wear name badges. Do whatever you can to get know everyone as quickly as possible.

  1. Make one-on-one time

Taking on a new responsibility can be difficult and time consuming, but making some time for each of your volunteers is a great way to get going. You’ll find out about their needs and motivations, how they like to communicate, what they’re hoping to get out of volunteering and their goals. Ask them what they would like to see from you, and use this information to make yourself a better manager.

  1. Who knows what?

Let’s get to the grittier stuff. Is there an evacuation plan in case of a fire? Does anyone have any disabilities, food allergies or mental health considerations that you need to know about?

These types of questions are extremely important for compliance. The sooner you know all the important safety stuff, the sooner you can get on to the fun bits.

  1. Get organized

Working on computer.Create a mailing list with all the emails of your volunteers. If your organization does not have volunteer management software, you can use spreadsheets to collate any telephone numbers, emergency contacts, etc. Find a method for logging attendance. A volunteer database is your most important source of data.

  1. Know your policies

Every organization should have a governing document that details the policies in place to safeguard its members. It’s important to learn what the policies are for recruitment, whistle blowing, child protection, expenses and absence. If you don’t have these policies in place, think about introducing them.

Emma Bennett, Volunteer CoordinatorEmma Bennett is a Volunteer Coordinator for a Leeds Supplementary School, Trustee and Charity Blogger. Emma is extremely passionate about volunteering, young people and mental health and has worked extensively on a wide variety of Third Sector projects. She writes and works in digital for High Speed Training, who provide online safeguarding and equality & diversity courses. @emm_benn