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Promising Practices for Volunteer Management


Promising Practices for Volunteer Management

(Adapted by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Leadership from Volunteers, How to Get Them, How To Keep Them: An essential guide for volunteer leaders and staff of professional, trade and charitable organizations by Helen Little (Panacea Press, Inc., 1999). Used with permission.)


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Take time to plan and get organized. Before volunteers are asked to work on a project, the project team leader must take time to think the project through and do adequate pre-planning.
Determine the deadline for completing a large project. For major projects, set interim deadlines up front. For example, in the case of planning a conference, set deadlines for contracting speakers, completing the program topics and mailing registration materials. 

Break the project down into groups of major tasks to be done. If your project is large or complex, recruit a project team of experienced volunteers, each to be responsible for a group of major tasks. 

If your project is smaller, create small tasks that are achievable in a short time and will not intimidate new volunteers. For a one-day telephone fundraiser, small tasks may include preparing call lists, securing a site, planning food, and reporting progress. 

Clearly define each task to help ensure that a member will agree to volunteer and the task will be completed. If you recruit volunteers to "welcome new members," they may interpret that as greeting them in person when, in fact, you intend them to be called by telephone. 

Develop a timeline. Using the list of tasks, estimate how much time each will require. 

Determine how many volunteers you will need. Keep in mind that the more volunteers you recruit the less work each has to accomplish. 

Determine the level of experience that a given volunteer needs to complete each task. This depends on the amount of risk involved; for example, tasks dealing with financial or legal risk should be handled by an experienced volunteer. 

Determine what information skills and tools the volunteer must already have and what training you will provide. Think about the needs of your project beforehand, and if a volunteer lacks certain skills, be ready to provide needed training. 

Design a worksheet for each project. More complex projects will have more detailed planning sheets; features may include task descriptions, estimated completion time, risk levels, deadlines for completion and evaluation, and assigned volunteers. 

Don't wait for members to volunteer - ask them. Recruit the best people for the job and don't wait for someone to offer. 

Fill high-risk tasks with experienced volunteers first. First concentrate on assigning your most experienced and proven volunteers for large and more important tasks, then assign smaller tasks to less experienced members.

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