Managing Volunteers

Finding the Right Balance

Match volunteers with positions they'll enjoy.

© iStockphoto/urbancow

If you've ever managed in a nonprofit organization, you may have encountered some challenges with your volunteers.

For example, even though they've agreed to work during certain hours, some days they may have to leave earlier than expected because of personal commitments. Not only does this make you frustrated, but you then don't have enough people to get the job done.

What do you do in this situation? The volunteers aren't paid, so you can't MAKE them stay. On the other hand, you need your staff to work to a schedule so that your organization can function efficiently.

However, when people work for free, getting them to stick to your deadlines, or to follow your explicit instructions, is different from managing paid staff in the private sector. Getting the most out of volunteers takes empathy, balance, and a high degree of managerial skill.

In this article, we outline the specific challenges of managing a volunteer workforce, and offer some tips on how to do it effectively.

If you'd like more information about general management within the nonprofit sector, see Managing in Nonprofit Organizations  .

Legalities of Managing Volunteers

It's important to define exactly what volunteers are – and what they're not.

Nonprofits can get into legal trouble if they don't follow certain rules. Every country has different laws about volunteers – and it's important that you know what your own country's rules and regulations are – so we'll just review some general guidelines here.

First of all, volunteers are usually defined as...

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