10 April 2017

Volunteers: What Nonprofit Organizations Should (and Shouldn’t!) Do

Managing volunteers takes time, resources and organization. However, if done correctly, volunteers provide a huge payoff for nonprofits.

In 2015, 7.8 billion hours were spent volunteering!

It is vital to your nonprofit organization to provide the volunteer team with information upfront in order to reach goals and avoid headaches. By avoiding distractions or mishaps, your team can complete more tasks efficiently and effectively.

raised hands with hearts for volunteering

What projects should I outsource to volunteers?  How much should I expect my volunteers to do on a weekly basis? There are many questions to ask yourself when building a team. As part of National Volunteer Month, we’ve put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts to get your team on track.

DO: Develop detailed job descriptions up front. 

Direction is necessary for more involved jobs that are longer term. Providing a written description of projects or volunteer titles is an excellent way to divulge necessary tasks to complete. This keeps you organized and projects prioritized. By providing the information to volunteers from the start, your nonprofit will appear professional and well-organized — a place people will want to volunteer. If you’re looking to take on numerous volunteers, perhaps sending a needs assessment in the mail or by email could be a helpful way to match volunteers to available roles.

Don’t: Ignore the importance of training and orientation.

So you’ve chosen a pool of volunteers who love your organization. But do they really understand your philosophy and mission? Providing a formal orientation session for all volunteers to ask questions, meet staff, and tour the office, will allow them to feel apart of your team and lay a foundation to accomplish goals. Furthermore, training will equipt them with the necessary tools and information to complete tasks effectively.


DO: Express your goals – and allow the volunteers to express theirs as well!

Having goals is an obvious need for nonprofit organizations. However, it is important to remember that volunteers have goals as well. During the interview or recruitment process, hash out all potential rationales e.g  thoughts on community involvement, reasons to volunteer with this organization, in order to determine suitable matches.

Don’t: Give them free reign immediately.

Although you have provided task descriptions and training, volunteers still require guidance. In the first few weeks of volunteering, make sure you are available to supervise them to maintain direction, organization, and task completion, as well as clarify any questions they have to meet deadlines.

DO: Give them projects they enjoy. 

Once you have discussed available positions and projects for them to work on, you can coordinate roles that meet the needs of both parties. Choosing the correct role for each volunteer will make them both happy and motivated to participate. Remember: Happiness means retention, which is good for you and your team.

Don’t: Forget to recognize efforts and retainment. 

Volunteers deserve recognition for their hard work and dedication to your causes. Show gratitude by providing volunteers with small celebrations, e.g. a themed dinner or get-together outside of the office, or a “Volunteer of the Month” award. By showing your team that you appreciate and value the hours and sacrifices they make for the organization, you can create a lasting and rewarding relationship.

DO: Change passwords after they leave. 


Regardless of leaving on good or bad terms, it is important to conduct security measures. If post-volunteers had access to any social media platforms, websites, or donation files, it is pertinent to update the passwords following their departure. Keeping your financial information and technology secure is vital to avoiding hacks or leaked files.





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Amar Trivedi

President and founder of AmDee, Amar provides insight of nonprofit technology through occasional guest blogs for AmDee and others. He has been a software developer and architect since the mid-1990s.