Make Volunteer Management More Efficient

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Session on volunteer management

Experience: Work with large volunteer groups of pro-bono professionals (30,000) - not knowing enough about what motivates volunteers and lack of work on providing adequate opportunities, to retain volunteers. Community managers are undervalued. Using corporate tool to “manage” that nobody actually knew how to use properly. And network structure is crucial to think about before you scale.

Experience: Just started volunteering – intern at social justice org in Central Valley and a mentor for young people. Recruited via Instagram – for a microvolunteering opportunities, appears to be a mailing list. Programs require commiting to a certain number of events.

Experience: ~30 volunteers working with classes in growing food ensuring safety and be rolemodels for students and engage with them in a positive way. Scheduling is one of the greatest challenges – mostly managed over email.

Experience: a network of repair groups in London. Snowballed from just two communities, now around 60-70 active volunteers in 4-5 groups. Built a custom event and volunteer management system – which was partially motivated by funder, added to an existing impact monitoring platform.


How do we network with other organizations and resource-share? Should we encourage mutual referral volunteers to other opportunities?

Are we taking on too much as paid staff? How can we get volunteers involved in self-organizing and self-management, what roles or pieces might they want to take? (Especially listening and conveying feedback to staff.)


Tools: finding appropriate tools is crucial. Identifying the needs, both yours and the volunteers'

• Principles: promote self-management, autonomy and privacy

• User research together with volunteers – testing tools before you choose them

• Chat (Slack), Email, Calendar/scheduling tools – Doodle *not owned by Google!* or Google Calendar, Group messaging (Whatsapp, Telegram, Signalboost)

Building a truly inclusive space for volunteers – be clear about who are you looking for. Identify who is missing. Please don't put the emotional labor of inclusion on people “being included”. Listen and do the extra work.

Incentives / motivations of volunteers – never lose track of this

• Personalising / respecting preferences of volunteers

• Don't underestimate the personal side of volunteering – keeping asks personal

• Feedback – written thank-you card for volunteers

• Food – breaking bread and paying transport costs

Thinking about scale before scaling or even dreaming of scaling. Identifying needs and what works at a local level before scaling

When asking for feedback from volunteers be prepared to follow-up on that and report back