What Makes Good Volunteer Coordinators?

volunteer coordinators

Volunteer coordinators are a vital part of the majority of not-for-profit organizations.

They have a big job. They need to create and maintain a process to care for those serving in voluntary positions. This includes developing a system to recruit, screen, train and match the right people with appropriate responsibilities; support the volunteers; and evaluate them. Most of all, they need to show them how much we appreciate them.

Unfortunately, too many people who end up in this important position lack necessary skills to be completely successful.

If we only have a vague idea what to look for when we post the position, we will only get an approximation of what we really want.

So what do we want?

Leaving aside specialty skills that some organizations require (such as FoodSafe or experience with animals), there are four general areas that all volunteer coordinators should be strong in. These are in no special order.

  1. People skills.

    1. Is the applicant comfortable talking to anyone, no matter how different from themselves?
    2. Are they friendly and approachable in all situations?
    3. Do they stay calm under stress, and objective when dealing with conflict?
    4. How well do they “read” people? In other words, can they determine easily what roles would be suitable for a volunteer, or if a prospect is likely to cause problems?
    5. Do they really care about others’ well-being?
    6. Are they willing and able to be a strong advocate for the organization?
  2. Management skills.

    1. How organized and detail oriented are they? Keeping on top of scheduling takes meticulous planning.
    2. Do they have strong time management skills?
    3. Are they versed in conflict management protocols?
    4. Can they delegate effectively?
    5. Are they comfortable with all computer and social media platforms used by the organization?
    6. How strong are their oral and written communications skills?
  3. Personal attributes.

    1. Are they self-disciplined? They will be leading by example.
    2. Are they willing to take ownership of the entire program? You don’t want someone who will be looking for someone to blame when things go wrong.
    3. Do they fully embrace the organization’s mission and values?
    4. How positive, optimistic, and up-beat are they?
    5. Can they “think outside the box”? They will need to be a creative problem-solver.
    6. Are they adaptable and willing to learn new things?
  4. Training skills.

    1. Can they develop and run an effective training program?
    2. Are they able to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of the program?
    3. Do they have the ability to judge when a volunteer isn’t understanding, and alter the training method to accommodate them?
    4. Can they create and maintain procedure manuals and a volunteer handbook?

It’s quite the laundry list. Good volunteer coordinators really are superstars!

Without all these skills, though, aspects of your volunteer program will be weak.

You may find that you have too many volunteers one day, and not enough the next. Your volunteers may not stay around for long. Mistakes happen if the volunteers aren’t properly trained. Disagreements can fester and break out into open conflicts. Staff may end up neglecting their work to deal with the volunteers.

When you’re looking to fill a volunteer coordinator position, be clear on what you need and you will save your organization time and money.

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