Volunteer management, Management, Management & leadership

Managing volunteers - getting it right

Best practise with volunteers.

Managing volunteers – Great time all round

I’m sure you will agree that volunteers should have a great time when they are volunteering for your organisation. But what does ‘a great time’ mean? Does it mean the same to the organisation as it does to the volunteer? What should your organisation have in place for volunteers that come into your organisation and freely give their time? Maybe tea and coffee but certainly policies and procedures that make it a safe and happy place to volunteer.

Managing volunteers is a balance between making sure you have all the procedures in place that makes a safe environment in which people can get on with what they are there for and treating every volunteer that comes through your organisations door as an individual.


A  good volunteer manager will be able to find out what an individual volunteers motivation are and work out how these can be met in a positive and constructive way. This is sometimes not as easy as it sounds because volunteers are not always completely clear themselves about precisely why they are wanting to volunteer and make a general statement about getting out of the house, giving something back or maybe to make friends, and motivations change as volunteers begin to volunteer

However a good volunteer manager will be checking that the volunteer is getting something back from their volunteering and will have developed the processes to be able to do this in a way that is relevant to the role that the volunteer is undertaking and to the organisation. There is no one size fits all in this area, there are many ways to manage and supervise volunteers and ensure that they are enjoying their role and the organisation is getting what they need from the volunteers input.


The culture of the organisation is going to make a difference to how volunteers are managed. Is your organisation set up to provide a service? If it is then volunteers will need to be managed in a way that enables the service and the beneficiaries of the service to get what they need, whilst you are also meeting the needs of the volunteer. If your organisation is not providing a service this might mean that you can have a more ‘casual’ approach to volunteer involvement,

However whether you are an organisation serving clients or you are one that is about volunteer involvement, or somewhere in the middle of those two, you will still need all the same policies and procedures in place. It is the way you set up the processes to implement these that might differ.

No short cuts

There are no short cuts to managing volunteers well. Your organisation needs to be robust in its management of volunteers but the style of the volunteer manager may be more subtle and more conducive to getting  volunteers working as part of the team by a more person centred approach. Of course good managers also need to be sensitive to the needs of the paid staff because even with paid staff it’s not all about the money that is earned at the end of the month. It is about achievements being acknowledged, have opportunities for personal development, having a say about how the job itself is done.

No difference really between volunteers and paid staff then! The difference lies in the fact that volunteers don’t get paid and do need to find something in return for the hours they gift to an organisation and it is your job as a volunteer manager to facilitate this process.


Find out more about this key topic, and much more about managing your volunteers, at DSC Volunteer Fair on Wednesday 22 June. Book your workshops now.