Managing Volunteers: Policies and Benefits

 

Policies

Managing volunteers in many organizations often falls to staff people who do not have enough time to recruit and oversee volunteers effectively or who are not evaluated based on their ability to work with volunteers. Thus, volunteer management is sometimes done haphazardly. Though developing or updating policies isn't a silver bullet for effectively managing volunteers, policies can provide some consistency to the process and to the experience that volunteers have.

Consider the following changes or updates to policies:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy: Consult your legal counsel as to whether your EEO policy should apply to volunteers and helpers just as it does to staff.
  • Non-Rejection Policy: Develop a policy that ensures that your organization gives volunteers and helpers multiple opportunities to serve. If they do not have the right skills or characteristics for a particular job, have a system in place that will ensure that they get placed in another volunteer position within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Screening Policy: Develop a system that allows for continuity and coordination in the ways that volunteers and helpers get screened. You want to be sure that if one department in your organization needs volunteers who have a Ph.D. in biology and another department needs volunteers who can sell hot dogs at the county fair, that the recruitment process is coordinated in such a way that volunteers' skills and experiences are appropriately matched with your organization's needs.
  • Staff's Ability to Work with Volunteers: Establishing a policy that requires certain staff to be evaluated based on their ability to recruit and work with diverse volunteers and helpers will send a strong message to the organization about the value it places on this function. It also will ensure that staff will prioritize effective volunteer management practices and will lead to regular opportunities for staff and their supervisors to talk about working with volunteers and helpers who are people of color.
  • Good Overall Volunteer Policies: If your organization is having a hard time recruiting volunteers and helpers from diverse backgrounds, the last thing you want to do is lose good volunteers due to poor execution of basic volunteer management procedures. Consider your policies related to thanking and recognizing volunteers, communicating with volunteers, and performing background checks on potential volunteers.

For example, be sure to have an efficient system for reimbursing expenses. For a list of good volunteer practices, you can contact your local volunteer center through the website to access resources and training, and/or scan the Internet.

Once you have decided what to establish as formal policy, be sure to train your staff on the policies related to volunteers and helpers.

Benefits

If you hope to attract a diverse base of volunteers and helpers to your organization, it may be worthwhile to consider providing some very tangible benefits to complement the soft benefits that all volunteers and helpers enjoy, such as a sense of accomplishment around doing something that improves the community. Especially if your mission is focused on serving low-income groups, you may have more success recruiting volunteers and helpers from communities of color if you provide benefits, especially when these benefits make it easier for people to take time away from their families and communities.

Consider establishing the following benefits:

  • Child care while a parent volunteers.
  • Child care vouchers that can be used at specific times not necessarily related to volunteering.
  • Tickets to events and child care during events.
  • Meals while volunteering.
  • Reimbursed bus fare or parking expenses.
  • Transportation.
  • Job training opportunities.
  • Welfare-to-work credits.
  • Credits that accrue to the children of volunteers and helpers, e.g., for youth programs, tutoring, etc.

Your organization may be able to provide other tangible benefits that relate to your mission or your community.

 

Overview: Volunteers

Benefits of Having a Diverse Base of Volunteers

Motivations and Barriers to Volunteering/Helping

 

Recruiting and Retaining a Diverse Base of Volunteers/Helpers