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The Frustrated Volunteer!

Nadia Prescott

I recently read this question in the Boston Globe about volunteering. “I want to find a volunteering opportunity and start doing something good for the world, but it seems like every organization makes it a hassle to volunteer”.

Nonprofit organization depend on volunteers. Your board is volunteer, and if you are a smaller organization, you likely rely heavily on volunteers to get many things done. Some organizations might even be all volunteer groups.

In desperation to find volunteers, requests are posted online or through word-of-mouth on an as needs basis with a lack of strategic thinking around volunteers. Hence the problems noted by the Boston Globe reader.

An eager new volunteer turns up ready willing and able to work for the organization. And there’s nobody there to support him or her. They show up a few times, do “stuff” where they do not see the bigger picture of what has to be done and why. The disorganization and lack of appreciation inevitably turns them away for the long term.

I see this all too often. The overriding need for help overrides the logical thought process and action steps you would take if this were for a permanent job. Take time to think about your volunteer strategy and volunteer management. What is the role or roles that are required?

How much time each week? Is this something that can be done remotely? What skills are needed? Who is going to manage the person and the project they are involved with and to ensure that course corrective action can be taken if needed? How will you make the volunteer feel appreciated and feel part of something important?

If you have a good volunteer you want to make sure you keep them engaged with the organization if this is only a short-term need. That points to another important consideration. Is this a short-term or a long-term need? Answer this questions, put a process in a place and you will recruit and most importantly retain excellent volunteers. And make it easy for those who volunteer with you!