Supervising and supporting volunteers
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Get to know your volunteers
It is important to really get to know your volunteers. This means taking time to understand what they find satisfying about volunteering and any concerns they may have about the role or the organisation. Volunteers do get bored; they have other things going on in their lives. A manager of volunteers may be coordinating several hundred volunteers so finding the time to talk to each individual or group may be difficult. However, ensuring volunteers are given opportunities for giving and receiving feedback on their work is essential. Exit interviews are particularly helpful in this respect.
Understanding your volunteers will help you to:
- revise roles to ensure they are still relevant and valuable
- provide new opportunities for keeping volunteers involved and motivated
- enable you to continually improve how volunteers are organised.
Getting feedback from volunteers
There are different ways of getting feedback from your volunteers. Traditional methods include questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.
Sources of help with getting volunteer feedback
- Evaluation Support Scotland provides information and resources if you want to undertake surveys or to assess the impact volunteering is having on volunteers, staff, service users or your organisation generally.
- The Institute for Volunteering Research has developed a toolkit for assessing the impact of volunteering. A number of sectors and organisations have used this to evaluate their volunteering.
Volunteer impact assessment
Results from evaluations can provide you with useful evidence for funders of volunteer programmes and help managers of volunteers make a case to the management committee or Board for additional resources. Volunteers also like to know that their work is making a difference. Organisations will want to demonstrate the difference volunteers make and Community Service Volunteers (CSV) organise specific events to do this, for example, make a difference day.
Volunteers Week is the UK's annual celebration of the work volunteers do and an opportunity for individual organisations to say thank you.
New opportunities for volunteers
You might also want to create volunteer roles to help you coordinate and support other volunteers. Many managers of volunteers are themselves volunteers. Volunteers often bring management skills and experience so use them.
And giving volunteers more responsibility can be very rewarding for all.
The role of the volunteer coordinator or manager
In most organisations volunteers are often managed or coordinated by a volunteer coordinator or manager. Titles vary and often the people recruiting and supporting volunteers may be volunteers themselves. Remember that the person working nearest the client of cause is likely to be the best person to undertake hands-on management of volunteers.
- Managing for Success: Volunteers’ views on their involvement and support (pdf from the Institute for Volunteering Research)