Lessons on Volunteers

As someone who has been a volunteer in the purest of sense for the majority of my life, I believe that there is still a lot to be learned about the act, the people, and the managing of volunteers.

There is a plethora of information available to nonprofit managers and professionals that have to work directly with their organization’s volunteer core. There are books and blogs about management, hash-tags (#volunteer), and solely dedicated websites (Volunteer Starkville is one!) to the cause of helping get information about volunteering and management out to those that need it.

I would encourage one thing over all the books, blogs, and facebook pages dedicated to informing you on how to successfully manage a volunteer effort or system for your nonprofit. Become a volunteer for something outside of your organization. That’s right, give some more!

Remember what it was like to just be a volunteer at an organization? Remember the hours you put in without direct supervision? Remember what it was like being new, or perhaps a reliable veteran who served at a moment’s notice?

Well those experiences will give you more insight into how volunteers should be treated, managed, and wooed, which is why you should experience them! While some people would want you to give your money (there was an article somewhere, now I cannot find) – I want to encourage you to give your time, even if it is to your organization. Maintaining the volunteer status in your mind, from what I believe, will allow you to develop into a professional that is not only humble, but seriously informed of what the needs of the volunteer aspect of your organization are.

I am reminded of this lesson because even though I am a volunteer manager, a board member, and a project director for two different nonprofit organizations – I am still a volunteer to other causes. My family and I still foster dogs. I still read monthly to youth. I can currently feel what it is like to be a volunteer than I could be managing in my organizations. Empathy –  I can connect with those I am placed in charge of because I am one of those people for somebody else.

A few good resources however – in case you wish to spend some quality time with developing your skills in this trade – can be found at the blog Nonprofit Leadership 601 which actually had a post last month about this topic.  I think the best resources out of her list to be Idealist’s Volunteer Management Center and Volunteer Today. While  Energize Inc is almost like the end all be all of volunteer management clearinghouses, I would not overlook the other resources just for one. Leadership 601 also has some great book recommendations, which I will not go into detail about. And if you like Leadership 601 make sure to follow her on Twitter.


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