Helping Hands

The World of Volunteers



Under my supervisor, I am in charge of running an exhibit at a local event with about 10-15 volunteers.

Oh my, volunteers. They either do not email, do not phone, or both. To top this, there are 8 groups of this particular organization and when all your supervisor gives you are two contacts and says “go”, it can feel like a spider web.

Managing volunteers tips:

  1. Letting them know they are APPRECIATED. Even if you have to use multiple ways of reaching them, they do not respond, they do not seem to remember who you are or what your goal is, or they feel like they have already confirmed…when they have not. Fun time.


  1. If they seem gung-ho to help and take on the world for the event, start them off small and gain a sense of responsibility and trust from them. If it goes well, give them something a little bigger. For larger more responsible jobs, 1) make sure only the necessary people know about it 2) select wisely based on past performance or recommendations for a reliable source.


  1. Stay calm and connect with your supervisor ALL the time on things that might be really stressful to you (who does not see the whole thing) but in reality is an easy fix if you are humble enough (key word…working on this) to ask for assistance or direction.


Does anyone else have advice when working with volunteers or helpers either at their placement or in past experiences?? Would love some insight!

  1. Sounds like you’ve worked out a good strategy…I would say you could apply this to co-workers as well, especially those who help you in a pinch (i.e. admin ladies) When is the event? did it already happen? how was it?
  2. Ha! Volunteers – you hit a nerve for me – they are at the same time invaluable and impossible for not-for-profit! … I agree that working with volunteers means extra “stroking” – lots of appreciation and loving on them – they are doing it for free! And being patient with “unskilled” workers. I found it was helpful to quickly assess their skills and abilities and match them as much as possible to their gifts and talents – less training and hand holding on my part, the better. However, the hardest part is your regular volunteers are often your biggest critics. They are doing it for free and have been doing it for years, so you MUST of course do so much more than your job and you should go above and beyond and volunteer too and do it better and more than them. Making them understand your role and work and how much you NEED them in order to get things done, helps. Use human development theory to understand where they are in life and what motivates/needs/limits them.
  3. It reminded of something I saw one time in college. The supervisor had a team of 6 interns (basically volunteers), and had us all write our own dream job description for our future work under him. It allowed him to get to know us and we felt heard and acknowledged.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s