Susan J. RagusaWelcome!  Winter hangs on here in the Hudson Valley, yet as I’ve gathered this collection of resources, thoughts of April, the traditional month for acknowledging volunteers, have been on my mind. Still, let’s be honest: even as we thank our volunteers — and we always must — many are only as good as how well our nonprofits plan for and utilize their time, energy and (when they have it) expertise. These resources offer both big-picture and nitty-gritty thinking on volunteer management, for ensuring that your volunteers are strategic assets to your organization. 

Volunteer Management: Doing It Better, Getting It Right


1. Readiness Roadmap to Skills-Based Volunteers
Readiness Roadmap, a project of The Nonprofit Collaborative (Points of Light, Taproot Foundation and Common Impact), helps organizations assess what’s needed to maximize “skills-based” pro bono services. From deciding on whether you’re ready, to how to celebrate success, this website offers a logical path and process. Granted, the focus is engaging professionals, not just any volunteer, but look for project management and planning strategies that can be broadly applied. Even if you think you lack current access to high-skill volunteers, take a minute to tour the site or bookmark it for the future.

2. Five Sure-Fire Strategies
Amy DeVita, managing partner at Top Nonprofits, breaks down volunteer management into five common-sense strategies applicable to any nonprofit. Each strategy gets the same straightforward treatment: why it matters and how to do it. She begins where everyone should — “Have a tangible goal in mind” — and continues with “Incorporate technology,” which explains useful programs and social media, with links to specific products. The wrap-up strategy is about recognition, which I always applaud. This is a quick-read article and a good place to begin in planning or improving your volunteer management.

3. Savvy How-to System
New York Cares was formed to “provide a smarter way to volunteer,” so when it comes to expertise on volunteer management, from seminars to handouts, this organization for organizations is a go-to source for me. Great Volunteer Management System is NYC’s practical guidebook, produced in 2015 with NYC Service. Rest assured, the objectives, ready-to-use worksheets and other how-to-get-going materials are not limited to urban neighborhood projects. There’s skillful thinking on volunteer management in any setting and designing “a framework” for a volunteer program. Here’s a download I recommend keeping close at hand.

4. Best Practices Applied
This handy volunteer management tool from 501Commons covers eight essential topics (e.g., Planning & Policy, Designing Volunteer Positions, Orientation & Training, Demonstrating Impact, to note half), all easy to access on one web page. For each topic, there are best practice tips and sample resources (e.g., volunteer handbooks, job descriptions, training manuals, surveys) that show recommended practices applied or in action. You can browse within each section, with plenty of links to examples — say, recruiting videos via YouTube — that may be just the jump-start your volunteer program needs.

5. Life Cycle of a Volunteer
Although I aim for recent resources, some I think of as evergreen. This 2013 blog series on the site Organizational Biology & Other Thoughts outlines three “currencies” that can motivate volunteers: purpose, affiliation and experience. The featured blog on experience (with links to the others) outlines an interesting concept in thinking about a volunteer — life cycle, with basic ideas of how organizations can respond in each stage (“unaware” to “ambassadors”) to move volunteers along to greater engagement. The blogger, Frank Potter, is Canadian and supporting references are as well, but there’s plenty here that’s universal.

Susan J. Ragusa is a nonprofit strategist with expertise in board/executive leadership and fundraising. She applies her early career experience in education through workshops, training, speaker and panel presentations.
(Photo by Ed Lefkowicz)
Copyright © 2018 Susan J Ragusa, All rights reserved.

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