Volunteers are often placed in positions of leadership
over other volunteers and with responsibilities for large projects. The
selection of individuals to lead those teams is often haphazard, not planned,
and rarely done in an intentional way. Selecting the right volunteer leaders
is as critical as selecting the right direct service volunteer. Here are
some tips to reorganize the way you find the right people to be in charge
of those large projects.
Write descriptions. Be sure you have a description of the work of
the project or committee they will be leading. It should include a list
of the things to be accomplished, dates things should be done, to whom
they report, number of people needed, etc. But, you also need a position
description for the leader. List the qualifications and requirements
of the position and be honest about the time required.
As a position comes open circulate the descriptions, both kinds mentioned
above, to people who are likely candidates for the position. Think outside
previous members. Ask someone who is moving up in the organization and
has chaired another event or project of lesser intensity. It is risky
to simply allow people to serve on a committee or project and move ahead.
Workers are not always leaders. Opening all positions to everyone could
make for re-energized committees.
Organize an interview committee. Ask two or three people, who are
perceived as neutral, to sit on a panel to talk with people interested
in the position. Conduct informal discussions with potential leaders
about the positions and what is expected. Prioritize the possible leaders.
Let people know the decision of the committee and if not selected,
how you hope they will continue to work on the various projects of the
organization. Never just select someone and neglect others who showed
The next step is to work with the new leader to develop plans for
the project or event.
Interested in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: Designing Programs for the Volunteer Sector, by
Nancy Macduff and To Lead is to Serve, by Shar McBee.
A recent study from Australia sheds light on the issues
of managing and retaining volunteers, from the volunteer's perspective
and styles of managing volunteers from the administrator of volunteer's
perspectives. The following is an abbreviated version of the results of
the study. The study was with exclusively female respondents. Details
on the results of the study are reported in the journal, "Nonprofit
Management and Leadership."
Managerial Issues from Volunteer Perspective
Manager of Volunteers Style
Work: Important, interesting, valuable
Work is respected
Work is valued and
Flexibility: Schedules, types, practices
Rules are bent
Rules are bent
Hierarchy: Teams preferred, people
leave if organization is too bossy
No hierarchy, everyone
does the same work
to volunteers; encourages
Volunteers have lower
status than staff
Communication: Open, two-way, availability
Decision-Making: Ability to influence
Monitoring of volunteer
Decisions made by
Responsibility: Most want responsibility
and get the level of responsibility they can handle
of volunteers by staff
Relationships: Personal with staff,
Training: Want training to build skills,
learning from each other
to develop new skills
on "need to know" basis
Leonard, Rosemary, Onyx, Jenny, Hayward-Brown,
Helen, Volunteer and Coordinator Perspectives on Managing Women
Volunteers, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Winter 2004, Volume
15, Number 2, pg.205.
The Points of Light Foundation has forms available
to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points
of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate
unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen
action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children
and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The
award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like
nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.
By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals
can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive
call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who
can help them volunteer.