July 18, 2010

Managing Better

Posted in Yes but at 2:20 am by Sue Hine

I have a feeling that a few tips about coping with time constraints are just scraping the surface of pressures facing the managers of volunteers.  So let’s have a closer look at the basics of the role to see how many things we are doing that can be left undone. 

In my view there are three generic functions for a manager of volunteers, looking something like this:

Direct Management and Leadership of a Volunteer Programme 

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Support
  • Recognition


 + Liaison and Networking

  • With other staff in the organisation
  • With other organisations in the community


 + Administration

  • Policy development
  • Job descriptions
  • Budget preparation and monitoring
  • Contribute to strategic and operational plans
  • Processing applications
  • Maintaining records
  • Programme Evaluation
  • Performance Assessment

If these functions are just the basics then the role is a huge ask, especially if you are holding other responsibilities in the organisation.  And this is before you even start thinking about the nice-to-do add-ons like getting a regular newsletter going or keeping in touch with all the volunteers by phone or email.  We can also get put upon with extra duties when it comes to a fund-raising event, or when there is a special request for an extra volunteer contribution.  We do it, mostly without complaint, because we know there is no-one else to step up.  Unless you step-up to finding the volunteer(s) who have the skills and enthusiasm to share some of your responsibilities.

It’s not just a matter of being a super-efficient multi-tasker. Managers of volunteers need to be multi-skilled.  Look at the functions above and go figure what it takes to accomplish all those role tasks.

 Marketing / Advocacy / Good Listening /  Attention to Detail  /  Persuasive  /  Group facilitation  / Interpersonal Communication /  Creative and Innovative  /  High level of People skills – good at establishing relationships  /  COMPUTER COMPETENCE  /  A working knowledge of HR management  / Understanding organisations and organisational development   /  Knowledge and understanding of the community sector

These skills are itemised at random, not in any particular order. Nor do you have to take this as a package deal: there is no box around this set of skills and knowledge.  Blimey!  That means the job is open-ended!  Do some thinking, and add and delete as appropriate.  And put some boundaries on what you are doing.

On-going professional development is not on the lists above, but should surely be included somewhere in your job description.  Yet when it comes to the point of attending training courses, mentoring and/or supervision I wonder how many of us skip the opportunities because we “don’t have time”.    

In my Wellington experience there are many people enthused about the idea of mentoring.  But why is there never a rush to take advantage of trained and experienced mentors being available, free of charge?  

The excuse of ‘haven’t got time’ is another way of saying ‘not on my list of priorities right now’.  That might also mean ‘I haven’t figured out what my priorities are’.  

I have not added any comfort on what tasks might dropped off the radar.  But I am saying:

  • Understand the role and function of Management of Volunteers
  • Get to grips with, and get some training in the skills you need
  • Involve volunteers, not just in regular programme delivery, but to enhance organisational functioning

 There are people out there who could do wonders for your sanity and your time management, and for the wellbeing of your organisation and its volunteer programmes.  Go find them, and you will find you are not alone.



  1. Very good points Sue .. and follows what we have been saying here at Volunteering Auckland for a while. In particular I make mention of your pont about people not taking up opportunities to upskill and develop their talents through “lack of time”.

    In this life we sometimes need to “give ourselves permission” to making the time, and in some cases getting the internal organisational support to enable this.

    For any Auckland readers [and others if able to attend] of this blog check out our upcoming forums and workshops specialising in Volunteer Management practices and support at http://volunteeringauckland.org.nz/news/workshops-forums


  2. Sue Hine said,

    Valuable comments Cheryll – thank you. I really like the one about ‘giving myself permission’ to take time. I think that says something about a Calvinist doctrine that prevails, particularly in pakeha culture. Do you have any great ideas to change this outlook???


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