Volunteering: Whose Needs are You Meeting Anyway?

For most of my nonprofit career, I’ve been involved in volunteer management, most recently as Manager of Volunteer Services for a small nonprofit with a super robust volunteer-driven operation in the Greater Grand Rapids.  I also serve as a programming officer for a professional organization that seeks to support volunteer managers in west Michigan. Recently I’ve been involved in and have overheard much discussion in the profession about the needs of the organization as they relate to the volunteer.

As a volunteer manager, daily you sweat out the details and logistics as they apply to getting tasks done. Typically you are so thankful (I mean like, hug in public perfect strangers thankful) that you can even find volunteers to fulfill the needs of your organization that the MISSION of the organization and how volunteers contribute to that fulfillment of mission gets left in the dust.
This leaves organizations in a bit of a vulnerable situation:

  • Do we cater to every whim of every group out there looking to “get in their hours” or fulfill their “teambuilding” requirements?
  • Usually a one-and-done situation satisfying our immediate need as an organization and perhaps the end to their commitment to your mission.
  • Should we just grab a body and put it to work without giving a second thought to the lasting effect and the sustainability of the time invested?
  • Or…should we as coordinators be more deliberate in what we are able to give to groups in terms of time and placement? Do we even have the time and resources to do this??!

It takes a long time to create and then maintain those relationships which seem to be the key to this teeter-tottering of organization versus personal needs. Have you thought about the long-term impact of whose needs you are meeting? What strategy do you use to balance this predicament?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, maybe even build a relationship with you! After all, our community depends on our connections to match-make for local missions.

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