Rob Jackson: Three things you can do to make your volunteer manager happy

Our columnist has a message for leaders of charities

Rob Jackson
Rob Jackson

Dear charity chief executive/board chair/leader,

Hello again. I hope my article last month was helpful. Hopefully you’ve come back this month because you want to improve your support for volunteer involvement. Great! As promised, here are three things you can do to make your volunteer manager happy.

1. Be clear on why your organisation involves volunteers. This is perhaps the most overlooked thing you can do to help your volunteer manager. If all your people know and understand why you involve volunteers, then decision-making will be easier, tensions with paid staff will be lessened and volunteers will be more motivated. Make sure the reasons you give relate to the unique things volunteers bring, such as the credibility they have with with clients because they are not being paid. Above all, don’t say volunteers are there because they are free or a great cost-saving move (they aren’t!).

2. Involve volunteers to help you in your role. As a leader in the organisation you should be a role model and have volunteers working directly alongside you. If you are a chief executive, don’t wriggle out of this one by saying you work with the board. You have to do that! How else do you involve volunteers in your work in a way that shows everyone volunteers have an important part to play in the work of the organisation?

3. Invest in your volunteer manager’s professional development. Volunteering doesn’t exist in a bubble. Almost every aspect of our lives affects our willingness to volunteer, and change in our lives is coming faster and faster. Gone are the days of volunteers giving you long-term, open-ended commitments. Your volunteer manager needs to be on the cutting edge of these changes if your organisation is going to give people a great volunteer experience. So give them some time and money to do some professional development, keeping their skills and knowledge up to date and relevant. It’s an essential investment if you are serious about volunteer involvement.

Of course, there are many more things you can do to help foster a positive culture of volunteer engagement in your organisation. If you want to move beyond the three ideas above at once, how about doing the opposite to what I suggested last month for making your volunteer manager’s life a nightmare? Even better, sit down with your volunteer manager as soon as possible and ask them for their views on what’s needed. Once they get over the shock of being asked, they’ll have some great ideas.

For now, though, I hope my three suggestions will help as you begin to explore the full potential of volunteering to achieve your organisation’s mission and vision. That’s what it’s all about after all – changing the world for the better.

Rob Jackson is a volunteering consultant

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