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Volunteer management and safety

Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofits, houses of worship and other organizations that serve the greater good. Two of the biggest responsibilities you have to the people who volunteer for you are to practice effective volunteer management so they feel their work has value, and to adhere to safety guidelines.

Volunteer management

When an organization has achieved effective volunteer management, it is able to not only accomplish its mission more easily, but also to improve the volunteers’ experiences. The following are five hints for nonprofit volunteer management that can make your job much easier:

  1. Define your organization’s volunteer roles. One frequently listed pet peeve of volunteers is when they’re not sure what they should be doing. If you don’t already have one, create a written description of each volunteer role, clearly defining what they will and won’t be doing. It is especially important to define the physical and intellectual requirements of each job so that volunteers are not mismatched.

  2. Work hard to make the onboarding process both informative and enjoyable. Too often, volunteers have quit in their first week because they are frustrated by the lack of information, or unsure whether they will enjoy their new role. During onboarding, you should be communicating the expectations of the role and also giving volunteers an idea of the history and mission of your organization. The volunteer manager should be checking in with them on a regular basis to ensure they are feeling well informed—and, of course, having fun, too.

  3. Provide feedback to volunteers. One of the key components of volunteer management is making sure the people who work for you know how they’re doing. It’s best to incorporate this feedback into a formalized process that is performed on a regular basis—for example, once every six months. Each of the supervisors with whom the volunteer works should have a part of this process, whether it is by filling out a detailed questionnaire or being part of a a group that speaks with the volunteer during a performance review.

  4. Foster community among your volunteers. If they aren’t getting paid, people need to get something else out of the job they’re doing. For many volunteers, that “something else” is social connections. Plan social events for your volunteers—even if it’s just a group of people sitting down in the break room for a lunch at the same time. If you want to know how to manage volunteers, the answer is simple: Turn your organization into a place at which they look forward to spending time.

  5. Recognize and reward volunteers. While volunteers don’t give of their time to get something in return, they do appreciate small tokens of your appreciation. Another important part of volunteer program management is regularly recognizing them. You can do this by:

    • Saying thank you – Word of appreciation can go a long way toward helping a volunteer feel like they are valued.

    • Publicly recognizing them – If you have a volunteer newsletter, include a special call-out section for volunteers who have gone the extra mile. Another option is to include a focus on a specific volunteer in each newsletter.

    • Give them a small gift – Even a token gift can mean a lot to volunteers.

    • Host a volunteer appreciation event – This serves the double purpose of helping them feel appreciated and offering a social opportunity for your volunteers.

Volunteer safety guidelines

It’s important to keep your volunteers safe—and to make sure they are safe for your organization. One of the first steps is checking your level of insurance to safeguard your organization in the event of an illness, injury or other problematic event. Then, you need to take a close look at your practices.

The following volunteer safety tips helps organizations ensure their volunteers, and those they interact with, remain safe.

  1. Screen all volunteers. Background checks are not enough. When you bring new volunteers into your organization, use an intensive screening process that requires a comprehensive application, references and an interview, as well as a background check. By the time a volunteer starts working, you should have a clear understanding of his or her motivations and prior experience.

  2. Train all volunteer drivers on safe driving practices. Check each volunteer’s motor vehicle records before allowing them to drive on your organization’s behalf. If they will be using their own vehicle, ensure they carry up-to-date auto insurance. Drivers who will be operating a 15-passenger van should review Church Mutual’s transportation safety resources to make sure they understand the increased risks of driving such a vehicle.

  3. Help volunteers avoid slips, trips and falls by maintaining your facility. Install safety mats, ensure you have proper lighting in all areas and keep floors free of tripping hazards.

  4. Safeguard your volunteers against the elements during outdoor events. If it’s a hot, sunny day, provide plenty of sunblock and water and encourage volunteers to take breaks in shaded areas. If it’s a stormy day, stay inside when you see lightning. If it’s raining and your volunteers still want to be outside, make sure they have the proper footwear to prevent them from slipping. If it’s icy, use salt or sand on sidewalks and other areas where people walk.

  5. Provide an easily accessible and well-stocked first aid kit for volunteers. Accidents happen, and you need to be prepared. Church Mutual has created a handy list of items that should be in all first aid kits. Make sure all volunteers know where to find a first aid kit in the event one is needed.

Without volunteers, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that you do, which is why you should invest your time in developing important volunteer safety guidelines and effective volunteer management.

For all of your safety resource needs, visit Church Mutual’s safety resource page.