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ASK CONNIE

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!
RP

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.
J

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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