Volunteers are key for any nonprofit organisations. They put in their unpaid time in carrying out tasks for the welfare and benefits for others. Additionally, nonprofits save millions of pounds a year with their valuable contribution in marketing, fundraising, event management, project execution etc.
Apart from an extra pair of hands, they bring on table unique skills, ideas and experience that can add value to nonprofit organisations.
Hence, it’s very important for any nonprofit to understand and acknowledge the valuable contribution of their volunteers and ensure to keep them focused, energised and motivated.
Recruiting, motivating, retaining and managing volunteers is not easy as it may look. Volunteer management is equally or may be even more challenging than managing paid staff as it’s much easier for volunteers to leave their position than paid one.
With limited budget, time and resources, it’s very important for a nonprofit to identify the most common volunteer management challenges and build a strategy to handle them as they arise.
Below are the top 8 challenges in volunteer management:
1) Hiring motivated volunteers
It’s the biggest challenge that every nonprofit faces. It’s hard to find a volunteer who believes in your mission, passionate, dedicated and easy to work and ready to stay longer.
Of course, volunteer recruitment is an ongoing and time-consuming process as the attrition rate is high and you need to continuously replace the ones who left.
2) Undervalued positions
One of the key issues in volunteering is that positions offered to volunteers are low profiles and not based on their interests or abilities.
They are not involved in any of the organisational strategy, planning or process. Hence they feel neglected and undervalued.
3) No-show volunteers
Every nonprofits need passionate and highly committed volunteers. But what if they don’t show up when you need them. Not all volunteers who join will have the same level of commitment. Hence, dealing with no-show volunteers can be frustrating and quite challenging.
4) Uninspiring leadership
A leader sets an example, inspires, educates and supports their staff and volunteers to go out and meet the organisation's goals. But what if volunteers have an uninspiring leader?
5) Volunteer availability
Most volunteers have limited time to commit. Making them available in shifts or specific time slots as and when required can be quite challenging to manage. More importantly when you need a volunteer to perform a task that requires a specialised skill that s/he carries.
6) Volunteer burn-out
You’ll often see volunteers in the early days of joining are full of enthusiasm and dedication, but then start losing interests and get distracted because of being overworked, stressed and undervalued.
Hence, it’s very important for nonprofits to provide a healthy and rewarding environment, conduct regular surveys to identify issues with volunteers and hire more volunteers to share their workload.
7) Volunteer retention
It’s always best and cost-effective to retain your active volunteers rather than spending time, money and energy in hiring new ones. Unfortunately many nonprofits fail to retain them largely due to poor communication, lack of recognition, inability to match volunteers skills with roles, lack of training, lack of management support, volunteer burn-out etc.
8) No training or mentoring
A volunteer training program is essential for the motivation, development and retention of volunteers. Nonprofit leadership fail to understand the importance and don’t offer training or mentoring programs for volunteers to nurture their talent.