Volunteer Coordinators: The Unsung Heroes of the Non-Profit World

If you were asked to name 5 charities and non-profits off the top of your head, could you? Most people probably could. If you were to pick one charity and then name 5 positions crucial to its success, could you? Maybe. You’ll probably get a few: Executive Director, Communications Manager, Volunteers… Uhm… Yeah, it’s tough for most people – and that might be a bigger problem than you realize.

Why? Because despite existing to serve, charities and non-profits still require the same things a for-profit business does – marketing plans, advertisements, staff (or in this case, volunteer) management software, scheduling software, etc. – but most people aren’t aware of that fact.

So how do charities and non-profits ensure these goals are accomplished?

The answer is by hiring the one person you’re least likely to hear about (yet charities and non-profits are completely lost without): the Volunteer Coordinator / Manager. Their job sounds exactly like it is; they’re in charge of organizing volunteers, matching them to positions, scheduling dozens (or hundreds) of positions, ensuring volunteers are qualified, tracking hours and activities, and communicating with their volunteers and volunteer supervisors. Unfortunately, often they’re doing this from a basic spreadsheet or an inadequate piece of software.

Could you imagine managing a database of 250+ employees with a spreadsheet? Staffing positions, matching appropriate skill sets to appropriate opportunities, engaging your staff to make sure they’re productive and happy, all from a spreadsheet document?

What if, on top of all that you had to create and track each individual’s profile, achievements, qualifications, and then communicate with all of them and maintain notes on their status and progress? You might be thinking that it can’t be done, yet this is the reality so many hard working Volunteer Coordinators face every day.

“But isn’t there some kind of software for volunteer management?”

Yes, there is. The problem isn’t that solutions don’t exist, it’s that there are a variety of obstacles preventing Volunteer Coordinators from using appropriate software to enable them to be more efficient in their duties.

For starters, several organizations have purchased Donor Management Software – which is useful for managing donors, of course. The problem comes when Volunteer Coordinators have to ‘make due’ with just that program. Donor Management software, or, in some cases, HR and Customer Relationship Management software, is designed to engage and manage donors through tracking who donates what, how much, and how often, or which employees log their hours on which days respectively. Although most of these programs attach another module for ‘volunteer management,’ it is typically nothing more than a glorified replica of donor management – so we’re back at square one.

Would an Executive Director manage all of this with a substandard software or a spreadsheet doc? Not. Too. Likely.

Furthermore, Donor Management software is designed to manage campaigns based around raising funds and finding donors. This is so, so important, don’t get us wrong, but it is not the right tool for volunteer engagement and management.

There are lots of warnings that volunteer engagement is facing a decline and needs to be reimagined in order to fix the emerging issues that could start snowballing into a significant problem for the non-profit sector.

It’s no secret that without volunteers many of the charities and non-profits we donate our time and money to would cease to exist in the same capacity they do currently. As volunteers are so incredibly vital, ensuring they’re properly matched, engaged, and utilized to an organization’s maximum potential is crucial to charitable programs being successful.

It’s important then to realize that donor management software, necessary as it is, is not the appropriate tool to circumventing a volunteer engagement problem. Volunteer Coordinators work hard, as hard as anyone, so shouldn’t they be using the right tools to perform their jobs at the highest level possible?

But do Volunteer Coordinators really feel that they need better software? Well, let’s look at some results from a survey we conducted of over 60 Volunteer Coordinators and what they had to say.

Volunteer Survey 1 Volunteer Survey 2

This paints a pretty clear problem. Volunteer Coordinators, even when using software, are seriously lacking the appropriate technology required to fix their main concerns: communicating, reporting on activities, scheduling, and tracking volunteer progress and activities.

Since Donor Management, HR, and CRM software aren’t meeting these needs, it’s time to empower our Volunteer Coordinators with the technology that will support them in their daily endeavours. It’s clear that their position is one requiring an intelligent individual deserving of respect and admiration, so we think it’s time they are given all the right tools to keep being their awesome selves.