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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~2012 ~

Dear Connie:

I am researching on the topic of the average, median, and/or suggested staff to volunteer ratio, which would ideally help support volunteer training and retention in a positive manner. Although I realize there are many different organizations with a wide variety of responsibilities that are held by volunteers, do you have an estimate as to how many volunteers can be properly managed by a staff member who communicates remotely via phone with community outreach volunteers throughout the country? If there is an industry standard, that would be helpful.

Thank you!

Dear RP:

Alas, there's no "industry standard" or "formula" for staff/volunteer ratios. There are so many variables in each organization that it would be impossible to create such a standard. You might be able to create your own formula based on hours available to communicate with your off-site volunteers. For example, if you have 5 hours per day to talk with volunteers and each conversation takes 15 minutes, you could supervise 20 volunteers a day. Multiply 20 volunteers a day by 5 days per week and the weekly total is 100 volunteers. So your own ratio would be 1 staff:100 volunteers weekly. Of course, I doubt you have 5 hours a day to talk with volunteers J but you get the idea.  I hope this helps you some!

Dear Connie:
I have often been asked: Why Volunteer? What is the purpose for volunteers? Why am I not being paid money to volunteer?  What are you supposed to get from volunteering?  I cannot answer these questions.  Can you please help me?  I am trying to get people to volunteer in my community.  

Thank you for the help.

Dear J:

Volunteers are important to any organization because they:

  • demonstrate community support
  • are ambassadors for the organization to the community
  • bring new ideas and new energy to the staff
  • extend the resources of the organization
  • have contacts and expand the sphere of influence of the organization
  • increase the organization's diversit

Here’s my checklist for How to Be A Great Place to Volunteer:

  • Identify your needs 
  • Be prepared and be organized
  • Be clear about what needs to be done, how and by when
  • Make volunteers feel welcome
  • Empower volunteers to do their jobs
  • Be honest
  • Ensure that every volunteer has the training and coaching necessary to be successful – if volunteers are successful then you and your organization are successful!!
  • Train leadership volunteers to supervise and manage other volunteers
  • Create ground rules
  • Make it fun, even though it’s serious work.  No one volunteers to be miserable.
  • Never “use” volunteers – no one likes to be used so try words such as utilize, involve, or engage.
  • Recognition is a process not an event.
  • Most volunteers will do most any task if they know why – communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Learn to listen!
  • Share results

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
314 E. Marie Dr. * Stillwater, OK 74075 * VOICE: 405.372.8142 or 202-306-1492

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