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On this page are ideas to help you work more efficiently with volunteers. There are tips on recruiting, engaging, coordinating, and managing the work of volunteers.

~February 2013 ~




Recruiting Volunteers April 1 (8 weeks)

Recruitment of Volunteer (8 weeks) engages students in the study of a marketing approach to the recruitment of volunteers.  Interactive activities involve students in practical discussions of the different styles of volunteering—traditional and episodic; building a recruiting plan, advertising and promotion for volunteers, and the organization of a volunteer recruiting team. Assignments in all classes are interactive and designed to build skills directly applicable to a manager of volunteers program.  Assignments can be used immediately in existing volunteer programs. 

Training Volunteers April 1 (8 weeks)

Training Volunteers (8 weeks) engages students in organizing training sessions for volunteers. Topics include: how adults learn, learning styles, building content, measureable learning objectives, selecting the best teaching techniques, and evaluation of learning. Assignments in all classes are interactive and designed to build skills directly applicable to a manager of volunteers program.  Assignments can be used immediately in existing volunteer programs. 

Leadership and Communication with Volunteers April 1 (4 weeks)

Effective leadership begins and ends with successful communication. Managing volunteers requires knowledge of one’s own communication and leadership style and that of others!  

This module outlines the components of communication required to effectively lead and manage the work of volunteers:  personal communication style, feedback, leadership, and building effective relationships.

Supervision and Management of Volunteers April 29 (4 weeks)

The essential component of supervising and managing volunteers is understanding the broad spectrum of what motivates volunteers to serve and to stay. This class reviews four motivational theories and applies them in the volunteer setting. There is also opportunity to review conflict resolution strategies. Risk management is discussed in some depth.

For more information:



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Managing volunteers includes considering the risks to the volunteer, the organization, the person or thing being served, and to the larger community.  Most organizations are working toward protecting all these stakeholders from the common types of physical risk.  It is also important to consider the risks related to money.

Many volunteers handle money for gift shops, events, sales of memorabilia, and the like.  Here are some risk management questions to insure that you are taking steps to protect everyone who deals with money or fiduciary issues.

    • If you are running an organization, are the appropriate audit controls established and enforced?  For example, two signatures on all checks and no exceptions.
    • Are the volunteer positions that deal with money rotated on a regular basis?  Keeping the same person in a position indefinitely is not good management and has the potential to invite problems.
    • If cash or checks are handled by a volunteer, are they deposited immediately?  Establish systems to get money into a secure location as quickly as possible.  It might mean deposit slips and bank envelopes for weekend deposits, but better than the trunk of a car.red blocks that spell out word risk
    • If you use a safe for money, is it fire resistant?
    • Are the premises where cash is kept secure?
    • Do you establish volunteer responsibilities so no one person controls the entire process—receiving money, registering deposits, withdrawals, and balancing the accounts?  By dividing up the duties you automatically build in a check and balance system for dealing with cash.  Recent cases across the world show that voluntary and nonprofit organizations are not immune from the skullduggery of unscrupulous people.



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Return on Investments  (ROI)


Return on Investment (ROI) is a means to determine what you get from the money you spend.  Let’s assume that the overall cost of a half-time manager of volunteers with a $5,000 per year budget is $30,000 (salary, insurance, benefits, taxes, recognition costs, background checks, etc.)  That is the investment of the organization to receive service that engage and manage volunteers. 

In order to determine the ROI it is essential to quantify the contributions of volunteers in financial terms.  There are several models to determine with ROI. 

The Scarce Resources model combines the value of the volunteer’s time with the cash costs of engaging volunteers and compares that total cost with the value of the accomplishments, outputs and/or outcomes related to the engagement of volunteers. It is a process for measuring in a “bang-for-the-buck” sort of way, but different than other approaches in that it includes the volunteer’s time as part of the “bucks”.

Other models focus on comparing the amount of money spent on engaging volunteers in an organization to the number of hours volunteers contribute (or the wage equivalency of those hours). The Scarce Resources Model is a measurement tool upon which you can make management decisions.

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Your organization has a “brand.”  The volunteer program is also a “brand.”  (Definition:  a distinctive category; a specific kind) People talk and having a good brand makes recruiting easier if your “brand” goes before you.  David Brier advises businesses on getting branding right.  He also identifies three ways to insure having a crummy brand.  This is an adaptation of his work  for a volunteer program.

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1.  Copy what other organizations do to recruit and manage volunteers.  It must be right if others do it. Just be a copycat.

2.  To determine how to create a brand ask your mother/spouse/best friend, or your dog.

3.  Meaningless clichés are sure to convey the values and distinctions in your volunteer program.

Ask yourself where your branding stands. 

Adapted from Fast Company by David Brier

For more information on Better Branding 

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