The Secret Sauce to Volunteer Management: Picking the Right Person for a Safe and Fulfilled Mission

It seems like a no-brainer. You have people who want to volunteer and positions to be filled. No matter how much they really “fit” into your organization, you’ll squeeze them in to make sure that the jobs are covered.

It’s a sad reality that this approach is a common practice. But there’s more at stake than just getting the mission accomplished.

Think of it this way—you could spend the time finding the right volunteer for the job (we admit, it’ll take you longer) or you could use what you have, putting your organization’s reputation and the safety of volunteers at risk. In the long run, it’s up to your organization. But we hope these points will persuade you to seek the perfect volunteer instead of just any volunteer—for safety’s sake.

The Risks Involved

There’s more at stake than just a reputation with having a safe and secure volunteer management system. It’s about the well-being of your volunteers. If they don’t have the proper skills necessary to perform a task, they’ll be left to figure things out on their own and are more likely to get into an accident. And that’s something your organization can’t afford (both financially and in terms of the mission).

The Selection Process

So how do you avoid these risks and keep a safe volunteer management program? Keep these things in mind during the selection process:

  • Be picky. You don’t have to turn people away, but you can put people into positions where they’ll prosper.

  • Look for any and all skills that the volunteer has and make a note of them. Skills that they might not think are necessary for the job might end up helping your NPO later on. Get them to open up.

  • Make sure your organization asks the volunteer candidate if they understand all of the procedures. It will help to test the new candidate to see how much they’ve learned in training, and give you peace of mind.

  • Select a veteran volunteer to shadow with the newly selected volunteer to make sure they understand all of the procedures.

Give Them the Skills to Succeed

So if you have the volunteers but they don’t have the skills, what can you do? The easiest way to make sure your volunteers are right for the job is to give them the necessary skills. Teach them. Let’s say you’re a NPO that builds houses for underprivileged communities. Put the volunteers through training for specific tasks like drywalling and other basic building skills. Having your organization invest in courses to teach volunteers might be in your best interest in the long run.

But not only do your volunteers need the skills necessary to do their job, they also need to know what to do when the unexpected happens. For example, what if severe weather hits, a fire alarm sounds or somebody is injured on the job? Make sure that training covers each and every specific scenario.

As a rule of thumb, always expect the unexpected (even if it doesn’t seem likely). Because like all NPO staff and volunteers know, anything that can go wrong, will.

We want to know—how does your NPO work to keep staff and volunteers safe? Leave us a comment below or tweet us at @NPHub.

The Secret Sauce to Volunteer Management

Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

September 6, 2013

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