Volunteer Managers: Stand up and Advocate
It is not uncommon for leaders of volunteers to experience frustration over the lack of awareness about their role. How many time have you told someone you are a Volunteer Manager/Coordinator and received the response “that is so nice that you volunteer your time as a Manager/Coordinator”?
Without volunteers the world would be in some serious strife. So why is it that the profession of the people who recruit, manage and lead volunteers is often misunderstood and unrecognised?
As people who work with and support volunteers, there are actions that we can take individually and collectively to raise the profile of our role.
Individually we can commit to raising the profile of the volunteer programs within our own organisations and the work done behind the scenes to bring them to fruition. Increasing the visibility of your volunteer program and the engagement between paid staff and volunteers is paramount.
We should take every opportunity to promote our programs, the services delivered and the incredible people who volunteer their time. Some actions to consider include:
- Reporting monthly to the Board, management, staff and volunteers to demonstrate the benefits your programs are delivering and all the hard work you do to make it happen. This may include:
- Hours volunteered. Be specific; for example, 100 hours of volunteer administration support was provided to departments X, Y and Z;
- Quantify outcomes achieved; for example, 50 patients visited, 30 tours provided;
- Number of volunteers recruited across your different roles;
- Percentage of volunteer shifts filled;
- Financial synopsis of the cost savings achieved by your volunteers; for example, calculating the cost of filling your volunteer shifts with paid employees; and
- Specific program improvements and/or highlights.
- Speaking with those benefitting from the service delivery of your volunteer program. Sharing their stories can be a powerful demonstration of the value of the volunteer’s contribution;
- Promoting the volunteer program on your organisation’s website, annual report and social media channels;
- Increasing volunteer opportunities across your organisation. Are there departments in which administration volunteers could provide basic support and free up paid staff to focus on more technical or strategic objectives?;
- Ensuring you deliver positive feedback received from volunteers about staff and vice versa;
- Developing your skills professionally to learn new ways of working, enhance your role and improve your leadership capability;
- Be informed of the relevant standards and legislation which impacts volunteering in your region and country;
- Joining relevant professional bodies and being an active member;
- Joining internal Safety and Consultative Committees within your organisation to ensure volunteers and their experiences are being considered and taken seriously;
- Creating a weekly volunteer newsletter and sending this to staff as well as volunteers;
- Profiling volunteers in the newsletter and on your organisation’s website and social media channels;
- Inviting staff (including management and the Board) to attend volunteer recognition events;
- Where possible and appropriate, invite volunteers to attend staff training;
- Promoting key volunteer events, initiatives and special days; for example, International Volunteer Day;
- Providing a uniform or branded shirt which clearly identifies the organisation and that the individual is a volunteer. This can raise awareness of the contributions of your volunteers internally and amongst your community as well as being a useful recruiting mechanism;
- Regularly survey your volunteers about their experiences and ensure you share the results with management; and
- Be curious and creative. If something isn’t working, try doing it differently. If the way you recruit or engage volunteers isn’t getting the desired results, explore why and aim to continuously improve the program.
Collectively we can collaborate, support each other and advocate for volunteering and our profession. Some actions to consider include:
- Network regularly through professional body meetings and working groups as well as online groups and social media;
- Reaching out to others if you need support and answering the call if someone reaches out to you;
- Becoming a mentor or mentee in a formal mentoring program for leaders of volunteers;
- Having pride in your achievements and sharing resources and ideas with others; and
- Meeting with local resource centres, peak bodies and government to ensure they understand challenges and current trends and what they can do to support volunteering in the community.
Now is the time to create positive change for our profession. Please share your ideas and the actions you have taken to raise the profile of your volunteer program and that of the leaders of volunteers.