The volunteer coordinator
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About the role of the volunteer coordinator or volunteer manager.
Volunteer job titles
Managers of volunteers have challenging roles, often carried out with few resources and as part of a much wider role. In a recent survey carried out by the Institute for Volunteering Research, the term Volunteer Coordinator is used for those who had specific roles such as Volunteer Coordinator, Volunteer Manager, Volunteer Organiser, Volunteer Leader or similar and for whom volunteer management was their core work.
Others who have some responsibility for volunteers but it is not part of their core work, were referred to as managers of volunteers. (Full research findings in Management Matters (PDF) from the Institute of Volunteering Research).
(Help with reading PDFs - Adobe conversion tool is a free way to convert PDFs to web pages so you can read them online.)
Volunteer coordinator and manager functions
While Volunteer Managers and managers of volunteers may work in a range of situations and organisations, there are some common functions they will be expected to carry out. Volunteer Managers are often central to an organisation’s success in recruiting and retaining the volunteers needed to deliver its objectives.
Having said this, many people who organise volunteer contributions may not describe themselves as Volunteer Coordinators or Managers. For example, those organising people to help in sports clubs or encouraging tenants to get involved in the provision of housing services, etc.
However, these people do use a wide range of skills, often dealing with similar problems and are often at the leading edge of encouraging diversity in volunteering. It is also possible to see the Volunteer Coordinator role as one which focuses on organisational change, advocating for heightened involvement of volunteers in the work of the organisation.
The special nature of managing volunteers
Managers of volunteers need to be aware of the special nature of involving volunteers. Issues include:
- volunteers and the law (Volunteering England)
- CRB checks (Volunteering England)
- risk management (PDF) (Volunteer England)
- supported volunteering (SVL)
Direct Gov provides information and links on how volunteering can help young people get an edge at a college, university or job interview.
Support networks for volunteer coordinators and managers
Managers of volunteers and volunteer coordinators can contact the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) which is an independent body that aims to support, represent and champion people who manage volunteers in England regardless of field, discipline or sector. AVM has been set up by and for people who manage volunteers to raise the profile and status of those who manage volunteers, who themselves may be volunteers.
Volunteer Management Portal - information on support, training and development opportunities.
i-volunteer is a social network that connects volunteers, charities and volunteer managers across the UK. Membership is free.
Experts in Volunteering is a project run by Greater London Volunteering working in partnership with volunteer centres to develop good volunteer management practice across London. It offers a free service to volunteer involving organisations to support them to develop their volunteer management.
The UK Volunteer Programme Manager Forum (UKVPM) is an email discussion network. To join, visit the home page and follow the prompts.
Workers in Student Community Volunteering is a support network for anyone working in frontline community volunteering projects in HE or FE.
Is leading volunteers different from managing volunteers?
One can easily make the case that managers of volunteers and Volunteer Coordinators are leaders, demonstrating skills and qualities necessary to organise people who are giving their time for no financial gain and who can stop at any time! Leaders of volunteers are usually inspiring individuals who are successful in their roles because they have the ability to:
- communicate the vision of the organisation and the part volunteers play
- know their volunteers, what motivates them and how to get the best from them
- develop their volunteers, helping them move into new roles as their needs and the needs of the organisation changes.
Changing the future of volunteering
For managers of volunteers who want to contribute to future changes in the overall volunteering movement, Volunteering England is working with a number of partners to modernise volunteering and improve the support for organisations involving volunteers e.g:
- Network of National Volunteer Involving Agencies (NNIVA)
- The Red Foundation
- Nationwide Foundation
The Modernising Volunteering Improving Support Programme seeks to work with the sector to deliver beneficial and lasting impacts in four key areas. These are faith-based volunteering, employer supported volunteering, volunteering within large national organisations, and new forms of volunteer involvement and management.
Have your say
What is your experience in the role? What challenges do you face and why do you do it? Managing volunteers is no different from managing paid staff or is it?
Have your say on the volunteers forum.