Discussion Recap: Managing Volunteers

By Sarah Welch, YNPN Des Moines Professional Development chair and Communications Director at Prevent Child Abuse Iowa 

Whether it’s that person who stepped in to save the day or that time you had 10 people ready to help and nothing for them to do, we all have our good and bad stories when it comes to managing volunteers. That’s why I was excited to see so many non-profit professionals join our March 13 discussion to share lessons learned from these experiences.


From all the advice I received from those who attended, I’ve narrowed down my notes to five key takeaways:

Guide a productive meeting. To facilitate a meeting with volunteers, maximize what you accomplish by setting times for each discussion item and placing the most important items at the top of the agenda, with the more “chatty” items toward the end. After the meeting, send a follow up e-mail with a list of tasks everyone agreed to do.

Keep your volunteers engaged. When you actively recruit volunteers, make sure you have an event coming up that they can get involved in right away. During a slow time in your organization’s schedule, hold a brainstorming session with your core volunteers to identify outreach or fundraising opportunities they can take charge of.

Have multiple back-up plans. Create a long list of tasks a volunteer can do so there’s always something you can offer on a moment’s notice. Book 1-2 volunteers per shift to handle no shows.

Seek feedback. Take dedicated volunteers out to coffee to get to know them and to ask for advice on how you can improve the way you work with them. Conduct an exit interview after an event or when a volunteer is wrapping up his or her time with your organization.

Recognize your volunteers. Send a thank you card that explains the difference they’ve made to your mission. Include a group photo from the volunteer activity. Or, highlight volunteers in your newsletter or nominate them for volunteer awards.

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