Volunteer Coordination

As a volunteer, I've coordinated other volunteers for a few different organizations, and I hope that sharing some of what I've learned, and soliciting feedback from other non-profit professionals out there, can provide help for anybody stepping into the role of volunteer coordinator at their organization. The steps seem minimal, but they can be intense. My hat is off to all the volunteer coordinators who've done this time and again as part of their full-time job! Also, please feel free to share what you've done that's been successful!

Step 1 is determining our needs for volunteers. The needs continue to be revealed as the organization moves forward with the planning, especially when coordinating volunteers for an event. The number of factors is incredible when working on an event. What is the capacity of the space? How many volunteer shifts do we need? Do we require volunteers to be of a certain age (for example, no minors)? How many youth do we allow per chaperone? Do we need volunteers to help people navigate the event space? And so the list goes.

Step 2 is figuring out how to manage the correspondence. By correspondence I mean, sending, emailing, and calling - All the ways to ask people to volunteer. Also, documenting the yea and nay responses, communicating requirements for each shift as the date gets closer, sending reminders, and handling last minute cancellations must be managed. There are a number of great ways to do this. Some folks are handy with email and Excel. Others prefer paper. Some, like me, are looking for technology to help. There is a really neat site called www.VolunteerSpot.com that works well. And it's free if your needs are simple. And did I mention that you can export the names, numbers, and emails of your volunteers to bring into your donor management system for future contact?

Step 3 is the identification of potential sources for volunteers. In the case of schools, for example, the sources may be student governments, Key clubs, Parent-Teacher Associations, school sports teams, etc. (I imagine this step and Step 2 may be in reverse and work perfectly well.)

Step 4 is to thank our volunteers. I thank them when they agree to volunteer. I thank them at the end of each communication (and sometimes in the middle). And I will thank them all at the end, because I know there is NO WAY we could have a successful event without them!

Have you done something that really works you can share? Or tried something that didn't work? Do you have other wisdom in regard to working with volunteers?