Management & leadership

Three things senior managers can do to support volunteers #VolunteersWeek

It’s time to stop and ask- am I doing enough?

Volunteers are at the heart of the charity sector. This is a mantra that features in many speeches given by voluntary sector leaders, and rightly so. Yet when was the last time that you, as a senior manager, took the time to explore your role in allowing all the wonderful volunteers to flourish in your organisation?

Here we take a look at three things you can do to make sure you’re doing enough.

Include volunteers in your planning

Warm words may be well intentioned in trying to promote the value of volunteers, yet it is often the case that senior managers overlook the importance of volunteers when it comes to thinking about the strategic goals of the organisation. You must ensure that the outcomes volunteers are expected to achieve are connected to the organisation’s mission and vision. To accomplish this, it is vital that colleagues with volunteer management responsibilities are included in the planning and strategy work that the leadership team carry out. This will truly put volunteering at the heart of your organisation, from the planning stages of any new projects right through to delivery.

Use reporting on volunteer impact

The reporting you ask for on volunteering can be a good indicator of how much importance you truly give to volunteering in your organisation. It could be that you are taking a simplistic approach and merely keeping an eye on the number of volunteers working within the organisation. However, there are more factors to be considered if you are to fully understand the impact of your volunteers. For example, are you focussing on the outputs or outcomes achieved by them, and do these link to your charity’s mission? If you are unsure of how to do this, there are a few things that you can put into action. Start by including the impact of volunteers in your organisational key performance indicators, and regularly highlight the added value delivered through volunteering within the leadership team. If you’re reading this and thinking ‘I don’t ask for any reporting at all on my volunteers’ it may be time to start implementing some of these ideas.

Involve volunteers in your own work

 There is no better way to show your commitment to creating a great environment for volunteers, than including volunteers in your own role. If you are not open to working directly with volunteers it could suggest that you don’t believe in the message yourself which, in turn, makes it hard for other parts of your organisation to get on board. Therefore, it’s important to engage with volunteers at every opportunity. However, this doesn’t just mean working with the board of trustees, whom you have no choice but to work with.

After reading this, if you find you are not implementing many of these actions, it may be time to put your words into motion. For a sector that relies so heavily on the tireless work of volunteers, it’s time to stop and ask- am I doing enough?

About Rob Jackson

Rob is co-author of The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook and is an international speaker, trainer and consultant in volunteer leadership and management with over 25 years experience. He founded Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd in 2011 and has since worked with an extensive list of clients around the world. Rob was previously, Director of Innovation and Impact at Volunteering England, Head of Fundraising Strategy and Volunteering Development Manager at RNIB, and Regional Volunteering Development Manager at Barnado’s.

In 1997, Rob founded of UKVPMs, the UK’s first internet networking resource dedicated to British Volunteer Programme Managers, now the largest group of its kind in the world. He remains an active volunteer, both as moderator of the group, and as a member of the editorial team for, an international journal on volunteering issues.