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The Recruitment and Organization of Volunteers page and the Management & Supervision page have been merged into one new page. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive, as well as ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ January - February 2008 ~

How Many People Are You Managing?

Kathleen McClesky, of KM Consulting and Training, outlined a way to determine how many people a manager of volunteers is responsible for and a way to convert that to FTEs (Full Time Equivalency is the term many government organizations use to indicate a full time employee).  Volunteer Today found this a helpful tool.

1.  Add up how many paid staff there are in the organization where you work as the manager of volunteers. 

2.  Calculate the number of hours per year the paid staff work.  Say, 50 weeks per year X 40 hours per week.  (Remember this is a rough estimate, not including holidays or sick leave).  So the average worker puts in 2000 hours per year at work.

3.  Calculate the number of hours volunteers serve in a given year.  If your volunteers give 30,000 hours (and yes, count the episodic folks) you would be supervising the equivalent of 15 full time workers.

You need to use your own organizations numbers to more accurately craft this formula into the reality of your situation, but it does give a rough approximation of your “human resource” responsibilities.  Thanks to Kathy for devising this little formula. 

Keep in mind that most people do not supervise 200 people who are paid staff.  The manager of volunteer’s human resource management skills are tested all day long with the types of things supervisors of paid staff may only see occasionally.

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Volunteer Program Infrastructure:  Training and Supervision

The October 2007 issue of Volunteer Today carried the first in a series of assessments on volunteer program infrastructure.  That article targeted the steps in effectively recruiting all types of volunteers and what needs to be in place.  Why volunteer program infrastructure?  One study after another tells us that people are not thrilled about volunteering for organizations because of the type of work expected or the inability of the organization to tap into a person’s particular skills. (Great Expectations: Boomers and the Future of Volunteering, VolunteerMatch, 2007).  That would seem to indicate that the infrastructure is in some way lacking.  No manager of volunteers is likely to knowingly turn someone off.  There is something in the “system” that is not working properly.  The following is the continuation of that series with an assessment checklist to review the infrastructure in your program.

Infrastructure Definitions

  • Riverside Webster’s says—“An underlying base or foundation; the basic facilities needed for the functioning of a system
  • Infrastructure-the system according to which a company, organization, or other body is organized at the most basic level according to Encarta® World English Dictionary
  • Infrastructure-a set of interconnected structural elements that provide the framework supporting an entire structure according to Wikipedia.

No matter how you slice it, having a framework or a structure, is essential to an organization, a program, or an event.  It applies to the city of St. Louis, and the volunteer program at the St. Louis Zoo equally.  And what volunteers are telling us in the new VolunteerMatch study and in numerous other studies of volunteers is that the infrastructure for volunteer service is woefully lacking.  How so?
         Volunteers are treated in a casual, haphazard way when they arrive to serve.  Staff are openly dismissive of their efforts.  There is no flexibility in how the person can serve.  Tasks assigned are mind numbing busy work.  The most serious indictment is that a person calls or emails to volunteer and no one responds.  Surely that does not happen in your program!  How do you know?
         To understand how people are treated by others in the organization the manager of volunteers needs to make a special effort to get away from his/her desk and visit with those working in the organization.  A volunteer manager reported recently that once each month she works an evening shift and one Saturday or Sunday per month.  This is because volunteers are working at those times.  Wise woman, she is checking the infrastructure. 
         So what is the infrastructure needed that is related to training, motivation, and supervision? In this issue of Volunteer Today we tackle those topics  Subsequent issues of the newsletter will give you the opportunity to check your infrastructure on evaluation and recognition.


1.  There is an orientation for volunteers that includes such things as; duties, work site, confidentiality, information on clients, members, etc.

2.  Training is evaluated by trainees and staff.

3.  Training is conducted by staff and volunteers.

4.  Specific duty or service training is conducted by the supervisor of the volunteer at the site.

5.  There is printed or electronic material available to volunteers to supplement training.

6.  On-going training is held as needed for volunteers.

7.  Episodic volunteers are trained at the point of service by a staff member or volunteer.

8.  Some training is available electronically before the volunteer begins.

9.  All training uses principles of adult learning and is interactive and not just lectures.


1.  The following motivational techniques are used in the volunteer program:

a.  Volunteers are involved in decision-making.

b.  Staff and other volunteers appreciate the work of volunteers.

c.  Volunteers are given real responsibility and authority.

d.  Volunteers do interesting work.

e.  Volunteers have the opportunity to grow in their involvement and responsibility.

f.  Staff is loyal to volunteers.

g.  Working conditions for volunteers are equal to those of paid staff.

h.  Volunteers receive feedback on the work they do.

Supervision and Management of Volunteers

1.  There is regular communication with volunteers in one of the following ways:

a.  Newsletter

b.  Electronically-email or web

c.  In-person

2.  Records are kept on all aspects of a volunteer’s service, such as, hours given, clients served, and awards and recognition.

3.  Volunteers receive regular feedback on their performance.

4.  Volunteers receive coaching on how to do their tasks or services more effectively.

5.  Conflicts are addressed immediately and resolved by involving all parties.

6.  There is a grievance procedure for volunteers that is written.

7.  There are written policies and procedures to guide volunteer behavior.  It is given to volunteers.

8.  Staff who supervise volunteers are trained to supervise volunteers.



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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