nonprofit use

Volunteers in a Nonprofit

I have not been a nonprofit volunteer coordinator responsible for managing volunteers’ time. The following are some of my thoughts from working with coordinators and nonprofits.

I found that the biggest problem with volunteers is dependability. Many times, people scheduled to show up do not come nor do they call that they are not coming. While there’s no clear solution to this problem, except keeping a list of people to call at the last minute, there are ways to make things easier for everyone.

What I saw that works best to improve dependability is scheduling people for specific days in the month. This way they know for that month when they are volunteering. Also, volunteers seem to like a monthly schedule.

Communication is important for scheduling. I found it surprising that nonprofits have limited contact with volunteers. Many nonprofit coordinators do not text or email and instead rely on phone calls. They provide little notice to volunteers when needed or assume the volunteer will come on a certain day because they did the previous month. Nonprofits need to communicate with their volunteers on a regular basis.

The big thing missing for nonprofits is that they do not send reminders a day or two before the volunteer is scheduled, and giving the volunteer an easy way to respond. There are software programs which will do this.

Finally, nonprofits are almost always needing volunteers. Yet, many of them do not advertise. Every nonprofit needs an overabundance of volunteers for when someone does not show up. Nonprofits need to tell people they need help.

My experience has been with many small nonprofits, so I wonder if large nonprofits have the same problem. Nonprofits and volunteers want the nonprofit mission to be successful. To accomplish this, nonprofits should communicate and volunteers should show up when they said they would.

Who is the Nonprofit’s Executive Director?

A nonprofit operates or doesn’t based on their executive director. In many cases, the ED is the nonprofit.

There is rarely a deputy making the ED the only one managing the operations. Their morals and ethical values reflect directly onto the non-profit.

Everything runs based on their personality, style of management, and ability to solve problems. Also, the attitude of the staff will mostly reflect the attitude of the ED. Just like leadership in any organizations, small or large.

To write grants, it is important to know the ED because they are the “face” of the nonprofit. It is the ED carrying the nonprofit’s message to the public. They are the person that donors, foundations, media, and others recognize when talking about the nonprofit.

There are other people involved in the nonprofit who can influence operations. Such as the board president (ED’s boss) and other board members. However, they are not usually involved in daily, routine operations.

A grant writer should first have the same values as the ED, but also understand the influence that can be exerted from others.

Volunteers

A volunteer’s time and services are the same as money. Nonprofits should look for volunteers as much as they look for grants and donations.

It’s hard managing volunteers who can walk away at any time for no reason. A lot of nonprofit people do not talk to the volunteers and never know why they are there. Like the grant writer, I think one of the critical positions in a nonprofit is the volunteer coordinator.

The coordinator should know the nonprofit’s needs, know where to find volunteers, and be able to ask people to volunteer. When the volunteers show up, the coordinator should remember what they provided and what they liked by talking to them.

The executive director and staff should meet and greet the volunteers when they are volunteering. And, more than once. It’s important to know what will keep the volunteers from running away. Such as not to demand more services than they want to give. Nonprofit managers and staff don’t know what too much is unless they talk to the volunteers.

Make volunteering a benefit to the volunteer. Give them something in return for their services. Sometimes this is easy when a person needs to do community service, their company gives benefits for volunteering, or a person needs to update their resume. Other than these reasons, really, why do people volunteer?

I ask myself that all the time. Like many people, I don’t know the answer. Yes, people say they want to give back to the community or help the nonprofit that helped them. But, it’s not that easy. Nonprofit managers and staff should not bother looking for reasons. Just be thankful for the volunteer and say hello.