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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ March 2005 ~ Topics

Selecting Volunteer Leaders

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 an interest.
  • 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.

Details for Designing Programs Book Details for To Lead Book

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Managing Female Volunteers

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 and facilitated Work is valued and praised Marginal helping role
Flexibility: Schedules, types, practices Rules are bent Rules are bent Strict rules
Hierarchy: Teams preferred, people leave if organization is too bossy No hierarchy, everyone does the same work Offers directions to volunteers; encourages Volunteers have lower status than staff
Communication: Open, two-way, availability Feedback actively sought Suggestions considered Manager protected by staff
Decision-Making: Ability to influence is important Volunteers involved Monitoring of volunteer opinions Decisions made by professionals
Responsibility: Most want responsibility Volunteers organize themselves Volunteers monitored and get the level of responsibility they can handle Strict supervision of volunteers by staff
Relationships: Personal with staff, clients, coordinators Personal relationships valued Personal relationships valued Close relationships are discouraged
Training: Want training to build skills, learning from each other Volunteers encouraged to develop new skills Volunteers nurtured into positions Volunteers trained 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.

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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.

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