How to Run a Great Volunteer Program: Managing Volunteers
How do you run a great volunteer program? It all starts with finding, managing and supporting your volunteers.
Operation Warm has more than 20 years of experience giving away brand new coats. We’ve gained valuable knowledge about how to run a great volunteer program.
How to Find Volunteers
“Finding volunteers can be very challenging,” says Julie D’Esposito, Operation Warm’s volunteer manager. “This is true whether you have a local volunteer program or a national one like ours.”
Julie makes sure to get the word out early, months before the volunteers are actually needed. “Friends, family and the people who already know your organization and the good it can do can be a great resource,” she says. “Everyone knows someone who has been looking for the right volunteer opportunity.”
Julie suggests using different ways to let everyone know that you are looking for volunteers. For example, you can talk about your volunteer program on social media and ask your friends, family and supporters to share. You can also contact local newspapers and civic groups and ask them to get the word out.
How to Manage Volunteers
The next step is managing those volunteers. Like any good manager, providing the tools your volunteers need to do a good job is a top priority. “It is important to communicate well and train your volunteers,” Julie says. “Especially if they need special skills. For example, our Operation Warm volunteers need to be able to perform specific roles and work well with people.”
“You also want to make sure that the volunteer enjoys the experience and the benefits of volunteering,” Julie says. “We always make sure our volunteers know how important they are. We want them to understand that they are making a difference.” Volunteers tell us they feel the joy every time they help give a child a brand new coat, but this does not excuse us from making sure volunteers have a positive experience.
Other Ways to Support Volunteers
“I think one of the best ways to support volunteers is to check in regularly with them,” Julie says. “You can do this in many ways, from having a quick phone call to meeting over dinner.”
By connecting frequently with your volunteers, you can develop solid relationships with them. Allowing them to voice concerns and feel heard will lead to a better program for your organization.
“A good volunteer manager is available to answer questions before the event,” Julie says.
The more you get to know your volunteers, the better chance you have of supporting them and keeping them. Volunteers are a critical resource of any great volunteer program.
Julie welcomes new volunteers and would love to speak with you about some of the exciting volunteer opportunities with Operation Warm. You can fill out a volunteer application, or reach her directly via email.
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