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Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right!

As with most nonprofit organizations, at Hope House are volunteers are crucial.  We could not do what we do without them!

As the Volunteer Coordinator for Hope House, it is my job to recruit, train, manage, and support our volunteers who donate their time and talent at Hope House.  I have come to realize that time is the currency of volunteers, which means they want to spend their time in impactful ways. 

As a result, I am fervent about my volunteers’ time and adamant that we, as an organization, are respectful of it. Maybe it stems back to my girlhood days watchingGone with the Wind and seeing the placard emblazoned with the words “Do not squander time, it is the stuff that life is made of” swinging gently in the breeze. Whatever the root, I have a core belief that time is not to be wasted!

How then do we go about using our volunteers’ time in the most meaningful way possible? Here are four tips that have worked well at Hope House:

  • Have a plan and a purpose.  Know what you want the volunteer to do and map it out in detail. Match the skill set of the volunteer to the task needing to be accomplished. Explain the objective and the importance of what they are going to do.  Make sure the volunteer understands exactly what you want from them.
  • Be prepared before they show up.  Plan for the volunteer’s arrival. Have materials together and instructions ready to go. Nothing is worse for a volunteer than showing up when the staff isn’t prepared for them.  Taking the time and effort to be organized and ready for your volunteers will go a long way in retaining them. Unfortunately, research shows that if volunteers have a bad experience, they likely won’t volunteer again – ever. 
  • Show appreciation.  A genuine, heartfeltThank you” pays big dividends not only for your organization, but in establishing goodwill with the volunteer.  Most volunteers, when asked their motivation for donating their time, will say they just want to know that they made a difference.  Appreciating their efforts will let them know that they DO make a difference.
  • Share stories of the volunteer’s impact with them. Here is a short excerpt from a note I recently received from staff regarding the impact of a volunteer:

“I have an amazing tutor on Thursday nights, Katelyn.  First of all, she brings dinner every week for the girls and other tutors, and it is delicious!!  But even better than that is the relationship she has formed with Shay while they work together.  She loves to ask Katelyn about the similarities and differences between Canada and the US.  Katelyn went home to Canada last weekend and remembered to bring back Canadian money and pictures to show her.  Shay was so excited and honored that Katelyn had thought of her.”

How do you think our volunteer Katelyn felt when she learned how she had impacted our teen mom?

As a volunteer coordinator, it is your job to use your volunteers in the fullest way by giving them meaningful, engaging, and worthwhile work.  This will benefit your organization and will make for happy volunteers who will be coming back time after time.

You can also seek out local sources such as DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) that provide excellent training and resources… tips and strategies from professionals in the field has been instrumental for us as we build a thriving volunteer program.

I  think Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, it is the stuff that life is made of.”

Let’s not waste our volunteers’ time but honor them and the fact that they are giving us an irreplaceable commodity.

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Blog Archives

January 2018

Organizational Growth Cycles: Stages that Lead to a Mature Nonprofit - 01/23/2018

November 2017

Knowledge Share #19: Creating Unity: The Power of Mealtime - 11/20/2017

October 2017

Knowledge Share #18: The Power of Networking - 10/12/2017

September 2017

Knowledge Share #18: Engaging the Millennial Generation - 09/19/2017

August 2017

Knowledge Share #17: When the Dream Seems Too Big - 08/17/2017

July 2017

Knowledge Share #16: Personalized Learning - The Cornerstone of our GED Program - 07/18/2017

June 2017

Knowledge Share #15: Special Needs and Special Moms - 06/08/2017

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


Recent Comments

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home ea ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home each ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Lisa Steven said: Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kerry Kelley said: What a great post, Laura! That was so insightful and caring! It almost made me cry! I love the pe ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset
Caty love said: Danielle is one of my friends back from high school and just wanted to stop by and show her how hap ...   [more]

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