What’s in Your Volunteer Program?

It’s National Volunteer Week and one of the ideas we floated last week for observing the celebration is to ask tough questions about how your volunteer program. That prompts the question:

What’s In Your Volunteer Management Program?

If you are like many associations the answer may be an incomplete list. Based on a 2012 survey of ASAE members*, most associations lacked in several important areas for an effective volunteer management program.  [Here’s a link for a look at a checklist for effective volunteer management.]

Recruitment – Organizations primarily communicate available volunteer opportunities through mass emails (31.3%), word of mouth (20%) or on their main website (12.6%).  While 46.6% have used an email distribution based on volunteer interest/skill inventory, only 11.8% report this as the primary communication vehicle.  Few organizations – only 15% – report use of a volunteer portal or collaborative site.  Oncology Nursing Society is one exception to this – visit their page.

Communications – Beyond recruitment, some organizations are employing technology solutions for managing and communicating with 45.5% offer an online collaboration tool.

Training – Most organizations provide at least some level of training for boards and more somewhat likely to offer at least a bare-bones level of training for components leaders and committees. Beyond that, organizations report limited or no training offered.

Measurement  & Tracking – Most organizations do not survey volunteers; those that do generally focus on their satisfaction (44%) or motivation for volunteering (28%) or effectiveness of staff liaison (38%).  Only some organizations currently or plan to measure the number of hours contributed (44.2%), the financial value of contributions (33.7%), compare the value of contributions to cost of supporting volunteers (29.3%), measure engagement of volunteers compared to overall membership (47.3%) or calculate the lifetime value of volunteers (23%).  61.8% did report surveying volunteers to solicit new ideas for programs/products/services.

Diversity – Most organizations are encouraging volunteer diversity, but 35.1% of respondents are not and efforts are largely informal and focused on young/emerging volunteers.

Micro-volunteering – most organizations over the traditional smaller volunteer roles, such as session presenter (91.8%), writer/blogger (80%); reviewing papers (65%); and awards judging (79.6%) and report an interest in or plans to expand these opportunities.  Read this case study in microvolunteering by Lowell Aplebaum from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

Staffing – Most organizations have staff managing volunteers as a secondary job responsibility. On average respondents reported 7 dedicated full time staff positions and 14 staff involved in managing volunteers, but not as his/her primary job function. The National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) makes the case for have a dedicated volunteer manager: they grew volunteer ranks from 154 to nearly 800 (among a membership of more than 7,000) and report over all greater effectiveness. Read more.

All week we will explore issues and topics in volunteerism – what do you want to hear about?

*Survey was conducted as part of the ASAE/Executive Management Section Council “Rebuilding The Volunteer Spirit” initiative that is on-going. Join the conversation on ASAE Collaborate group of the same name (restricted to ASAE Members).