What Is Volunteer Management?

By Frederik C. Boll, Nana G. Alsted and Jakob M. Hald
From Volunteer Management - How and Why?, Ankerhus Publishing, 2012, 17-19

Management is about managing the volunteer resources, and to do this there are various tools. We believe that ‘management’ in volunteer organisations is the glue, which ensures a coherent coordination of the voluntary work. Volunteer management is thus to manage the volunteer resources in a way that makes sense for both the organisation and the volunteers. There are countless definitions and versions of a comprehensive approach to volunteer management. We are inspired by the international literature that focuses on volunteer management as a strategy to coordinate the volunteer resources.

So what is volunteer management? It is the strategic management of the volunteer resources, which is possible when there is a connection between the organisation, recruitment, retention and management of volunteers. With the aim that the work makes sense for both the volunteers and the organisation. 

We believe that the strategic management of the volunteer resources should be developed together with the overall strategy of the organisation, whilst being aware of the organisational context in which the work with the volunteers is practised. Put differently; it is about using the human resources available in relation to the objectives of your organisation, as well as the possibilities and restrictions provided by the organisational context... 

It is a challenge to get a connection between the strategic handling of the volunteer resources, the overall strategy of the organisation and the context. 

Working with a council run institution for older people, we were asked to help create at volunteer recruitment strategy. At the first meeting we asked, what the overall objectives were to involve volunteers. The answer was: We don’t have any! Or more precisely, there was one objective: More volunteers. That was why we were asked to help create a recruitment strategy. Instead of talking about recruitment strategy, we spent the whole of the first day discussing the context that characterised the institution. This discussion was very valuable as it showed the challenges that could arise, if the Volunteers and staff were to work together, but there was no particular support amongst the team leaders, and the rest of the staff, to work with volunteers.

Additionally, there was only limited financial and staff resources available to support the voluntary work, and the institution was mainly managed top-down. All this created certain opportunities and limits for the involvement of volunteers – and especially the way the recruitment strategy is planned and executed. In fact, the first step in the recruitment strategy was a series of workshops
for the employees to focus on the relationship with the new volunteer colleagues. Successful recruitment of volunteers depended on whether their volunteer environment was sustainable and ready to welcome and appreciate the new volunteers.

The example above shows why the link between the strategic handling of the volunteer resources, the overall objectives of the organisation and the context is important. In this book the strategic handling of volunteer resources focuses on the connection between organisation, recruitment and mobilisation, retention and management of volunteers. When we look at the premises set previously for volunteer management (the dual focus on meaning, the focus areas of the strategic handling of the volunteer resources, the organisation strategy and the context) we can create [a] model for volunteer management as a professional discipline....

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