10 Qualities Of Truly Awesome Volunteer Program Managers

Volunteer managers make the world go round.

I’ve worked with them, volunteered for them, and I personally know a few. What they do isn’t easy. Finding individuals to engage in a cause, often doing so with minimal resources, is tough.

So seriously, thank you.

Between recruiting, stewarding and organizing volunteers, it’s understandable that things can get hectic! As a sector we all want rockstar volunteers, but staff are critical in helping to set the stage for that success.

How do truly great volunteer coordinators manage to do this? With actionable steps, preparation, and perhaps a touch of magic.

10 Qualities Of Truly Awesome Volunteer Program Managers

great volunteer managers

1. They’re engaged.

Engagement matters in any career, but especially in volunteer management! Staff who are in tune with the needs and aspirations of their volunteers are more likely to deliver experiences that resonate with their audience.

2. They’re flexible.

Volunteer coordinators understand that situations arise, people bow out, and that things take time. That’s why they’re flexible and willing to adapt to change.

3. They understand they’re delivering an experience.

People volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts. But effective volunteer managers know that dedication isn’t enough to retain them. If volunteers don’t feel like they’re making an impact or that their needs are being met, then they won’t stick around.

That’s why great coordinators know that volunteer management demands the right mix of scheduling, organization, communication, stewardship and customer service.

4. They hold volunteers accountable no matter what.

Striking the right balance with your volunteers is important. You don’t want to ask too much, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of asking for too little either. Volunteers who feel a sense of responsibility for their part will feel and do better for your organization. That accountability results in a more enriching volunteer experience and an impactful program.

5. They collaborate with other departments.

An organization’s potential is stunted when departments choose to function in silos. On the other hand, teams who communicate with each other benefit from the synergies of their work!

Maybe someone from marketing can help promote your volunteer opportunity. Perhaps development can send donors your way who want to get more involved. If there isn’t a structure in place for collaborating like this, it’s worth starting the conversation!

6. They’re open to process improvements.

Volunteer coordinators don’t need to be techies to be great at their job, nor do they need to upend systems that already work. Still, great volunteer professionals understand the logistical challenge of coordinating those activities! If there’s a tool that can help them better track volunteers, or if there are tricks that can be applied to their existing spreadsheets, they’re not afraid to look into it.

7. They know when to push back.

Volunteer programs can have many stakeholders. Volunteer managers aren’t just thinking about their volunteers: they’re also considering the constituents who are being served, their directors, and other departments who may have a vested interest in their program.

Great coordinators understand the need for setting expectations, communicating priorities, and being accommodating to these stakeholders. They’re also not afraid to push back when necessary.

8. They stay on top of trends.

Volunteer management is a robust profession with ever-changing capabilities and methodologies. Stellar volunteer managers stay on top of these trends, share insights with like-minded professionals, and seek out ways to improve their practice!

9. They’re resilient.

No one is made of stone. When someone has a bad experience, or negatively affects the experience of the larger group, it can be easy to internalize the mistakes that led to the situation. However, great volunteer coordinators don’t allow the scars from one experience to settle! They learn from it, get better and grow.

10. They genuinely care about their volunteers, constituents and the mission.

There are baseline requirements every volunteer coordinator needs to have. But the ones who separate themselves from the rest are the ones that truly care.

You can literally hear it in someone’s voice when the mission of an organization inspires them. And speaking from the experience of being a volunteer, that can be a real motivator for others!

Volunteer Program staff are the bridge between an organization’s work and the community members who get involved. By doing all of these things, volunteer coordinators have the ability to mobilize both their volunteers and the mission – and do lots of good along the way!

Did you have an incredible experience thanks to a volunteer coordinator? What made that experience special for you?

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