Engaging volunteers to help a child succeed in school, a family secure financial stability and a community embrace healthy habits will create a better life for all. United Way and nearly all charitable organizations rely on volunteers to help achieve our missions. Volunteers are our most valuable asset. Not only do they help advance the common good, they are goodwill ambassadors for our organizations and many also make financial contributions that sustain our work.
Behind every great team of volunteers, however, is a great volunteer manager. Experienced and knowledgeable volunteer managers are as important as the volunteers themselves in advancing the common good and in helping their organization thrive. A survey of area nonprofits by United Way of Central Indiana found that 56% of nonprofits had to turn away volunteers because they lacked the capacity to provide a quality volunteer experience. Nonprofits simply cannot afford to lose volunteers, whether they be individuals, groups, or companies seeking volunteer opportunities for their employees.
It stands to reason, then, that charitable organizations should make an investment in their volunteer managers. While online resources for learning how to recruit, manage, and retain volunteers are plentiful, there is nothing like learning from your peers and more experienced people in the field.
That’s why more and more United Ways are offering training to volunteer managers. Local nonprofits asked United Way of Buffalo and Erie County to create and deliver a training program to help volunteer managers learn and grow in their role. The yearly, eight-week training includes a three-hour class on a different topic each week. The classes attract long-time volunteer managers and people who are just getting started in the field. Topics covered include: engaging high school and college students; dealing with difficult volunteers; using social media; measuring the impact of volunteers and more.
United Way of Salt Lake offers volunteer manager trainings twice a month. United Way partners with four universities in the area to sponsor Volunteer Management Training at Salt Lake Community College. United Way of Central Indiana offers a wide range of training programs for volunteers, volunteer managers and others in the nonprofit sector. For example, the Volunteer Innovation Partnership is a year-long program where a small group of volunteer managers learn advanced management skills through instruction and applied learning, creating such products as strategic plans, program assessments and tools for measuring the volunteer program’s ROI.
With baby boomers retiring and more and more millennials seeking volunteer experiences through their employers, a surge in volunteers is likely. Nonprofits that invest in volunteer managers now will be able to attract and retain volunteers in the future, and better channel their time and talent for the common good.