Top Volunteer Program Needs: What Our Readers Shared

Tobi Johnson & Associates a New Vision for VolunteerismThanks to everyone who responded to our “No Fluff, Just Helpful Stuff” survey and submitted their most pressing volunteer program challenges.

As I read through the comments, I was impressed with the depth of commitment expressed by our generous volunteer program leaders as they bravely shared their pinch points.  True pros one and all!

This input will have a direct impact on what we produce for you — and how we choose to share it — this coming year.  We’ll be on the look out for practical solutions that address the issues outlined below and that make sense on a tight budget.  So, keep an eye on this blog! And, if some of the needs expressed here align with your program’s needs, share it with your boss!

Congratulations to Jeffrey Isaacson, from Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center who took the survey and won our book raffle! (Shout out to the Pacific Northwest! Woot! Woot!)

What We Learned

Program Planning and Needs Assessment

  • Getting support for the volunteer program remains a time-worn issue. We heard concerns like the following:
    • “How do I convince management that volunteers are not just dolls on a windowsill that you take down and use to fill a job, but are individuals with hopes and needs and want to be considered a part of a team?”
    • “Time, interest and commitment at all levels within the organization.”
    • “Getting staff on-board with new volunteer intake procedures.”

Volunteer Recruitment

  • Not just recruiting enough volunteers, but getting the right volunteers onboard is a challenge.  We heard concerns like the following:
    • “Attracting volunteers with leadership, development and technology skills.”
    • “Finding the right volunteer for the volunteer opportunity you need to fill; reaching these individuals through various media on a dirt cheap budget.”
    • “Targeted recruitment – getting the best volunteers, not just bodies.”

Volunteer Screening and Placement

  • Matching volunteers’ interests with currently available openings can be tricky.  We heard concerns like the following:
    • “Interviewing volunteers who are great but there really is not a place in the organization for them. Primarily due to their schedule versus our openings.”
    • “Increase acceptance of volunteers in the organization and creative ideas on how to utilize them to help lessen workaday on paid staff while providing meaningful and impactful volunteer experiences.”
    • “Time and having the right volunteer position available when a person asks about volunteering.”

Volunteer Orientation and Training

  • Many programs struggle with how much time to devote to training and for which types of volunteers.  We heard concerns like the following:
    • “Is it necessary for one time volunteers, will it discourage them from volunteering?”
    • “Having to condense to much information into a short period of time.”
    • “Ensuring that staff members spend adequate time going over our new Volunteer Orientation Prezi and welcoming volunteers.”

Volunteer Supervision and Support

  • The ratio of staff to volunteers is a management nut that still needs cracking.  We heard concerns like the following:
    • “We have only one volunteer coordinator and 100 volunteers. How can I ever meet all their needs?”
    • “Not enough time in a day to provide adequate and timely support and supervision.”
    • “Making sure the volunteers are doing what they are supposed to do when there aren’t any staff members overseeing hundreds of volunteers.”

Volunteer Recognition

  • Finding the right volunteer recognition strategy is harder than you’d think.  We heard concerns like the following:
    • “We don’t do as much as we could! Everyone wants to be recognized differently.”
    • “From ‘please do not give me anything’ to ‘I have worked 12 hours 4 minutes what are you giving me’ and everyone in between – does recognition ever truly have a way of keeping most volunteers happy?”
    • “There are so many ways to recognize our volunteers but with social media etc, are we really giving them what they want?”

Program Evaluation and Assessment

  • Most people aren’t doing it or aren’t aware of it being done at their organization.  We heard concerns like the following:
    • “I wish – no time.”
    • “Practices haven’t been standard quite long enough to measure them.”
    • “At branch level I am not privy to program evaluation or assessment.”

Top Volunteer Management Interests and Preferences

The top five volunteer management interests were (in order of priority):

  1. Social Media Strategy
  2. Volunteer Recruitment
  3. Strategic Planning
  4. Community Outreach
  5. Volunteer Reward and Recognition

The top four preferred sources for new volunteer management ideas and info were (in order of priority):

  1. Webinars/Webcasts
  2. eNewsletters
  3. Blog Posts
  4. Facebook

What Do You Think?

Do these needs resonate with you?  If your experience is different, what’s missing from our report?  Share your ideas in the comments box below.

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One Response to Top Volunteer Program Needs: What Our Readers Shared

  1. Deanna Lynn Stills Cole February 16, 2015 at 2:51 am #

    Tobi, this certainly validates what we are seeing across the volunteer sectors. Great stuff. I just found you via a Google search for “Volunteer Trends” and found you. Very excited to learn more. Thank you. v/r Deanna Cole

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