Friday, July 16, 2010

No follow up? No Volunteer Management?

A volunteer contacts an organisation and expresses interest in volunteering with them.

They register their names or send in an application form. They never hear back from that organisation again!

In recent time I have read more about this occurrence. I am not too sure whether this is becoming more of an issue just because I read about it more though. Maybe people are highlighting it more. Or indeed maybe it is a bigger issue than we realise.

As well as being a full time manager of volunteers I also continue to volunteer in my community and I too have had a recent experience of offering my time but having the organisation “forget” that I did so!!

I often encourage managers of volunteers to do some volunteering themselves if they get the time. Apart from the myriad of good reasons for doing so it is always refreshing to see things from the “volunteer perspective”. Mind you I am not too sure a volunteer coordinator would feel entirely comfortable with me at an initial volunteer interview when they ask of my background and I tell them I have been in volunteer management for 13 years and that I like to write on the topic and my blog is based completely on volunteer management!!!

I think one aspect that we have ignored or neglected to discuss in our sector is the volunteer coordinator or manager who is struggling to keep up.

You know the drill.

An agency with lots of volunteers and the name and goodwill to take on many many more employ a volunteer coordinator. Now they can’t invest too much in this right? After all they are a not for profit organisation. Mind you they employ full time Marketing, PR, HR, Fundraising and Executive staff (and often interestingly enough title them managers!)

So the new volunteer coordinator commences working 5 days a fortnight. Their brief is to grow the program, manage existing programs, recruit, interview, orientate, train, supervise, manage, coordinate, Market the program, delegate, “be there” lead, influence, report, budget, develop a strategic plan, grow professionally, etc.etc.etc.

It’s a big job - volunteer coordination or management. It takes a lot of time. It’s a full time job. It needs resources. It requires planning. Great volunteer programs and outcomes don’t just materialize from thin air.

So while it is right to raise concerns about lack of response or slow response to volunteer enquiries lets just spare a thought for the stressed out part time coordinator who is dealing with an influx of applicants and who is expected to manage the existent volunteer team without a hitch in their part time capacity.

By not responding quickly enough or by not responding at all they are failing in effective volunteer management. We say J'accuse! But perhaps their organisations are the bigger culprits by not resourcing volunteer management in the first place???

Food for thought?


  1. In addition to managing programs, budgeting, leading, coordinating volunteers, recruiting etc. etc. etc. the Volunteer Coordinator, in their spare time, has to jump through the hoops of the bureaucratic bean counters to ensure all of the red tape paperwork is complete. The Volunteer Coordinator then ends up in hospital with heart attack, ulcer or other stress related condition which puts them even further behind in their work.

    Why do we do it then? Because we love our jobs and we love a challenge and we are out there advocating for Volunteer Management to be internationally recognized and valued as a profession BECAUSE VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT MATTERS!!!

  2. you are probably aware of the exercise we do every year where we ring 20 not for profits who have advertised for volunteers and we ask for info on becoming a vol.

    since 1996...30% response rate..never hear from 70%

  3. I think our sector would love a better breakdown of those figures.

    Those NFPs you ring?

    Do they have a designated Volunteer Manager?

    Is that Volunteer Manager full or part time?
    Is Volunteer Management taken seriously in those oganisations?

    Is the volunteer Manager simply “Sheila from accounts who look after the vollies 4 days a fortnight “
    Martin – when I first heard your figures years ago I was shocked. Now experience has taught me to question statements like that especially in terms of what I have discussed above.
    While I appreciate that someone like you asks the question ….the current reality points to the supposition that the question itself may need to change!?


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