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Managing voluntary work better

Kirjoittanut: Sille Sinor - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

10 askelta parempaan vapaaehtoistoimintaan
Lari Karreinen
Maria Halonen
Meri Tennilä
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 10 minuuttia.

What are the steps to help organizations manage their voluntary workers and how to recruit them? There are 10 steps to help organizations like Rotex or other non-profit organizations to perform better, based on the book 10 askelta parempaan vapaaehtoistoimintaan by Karreinen, Halonen, and Tennilä.  


1. Packaging of voluntary work 

Many voluntary organization operations are based on viewing active members’ actions and knowledge. Without these view persons, the organization’s operations would shut down or need to build up from the ground. These people are usually the ones who feel the most passionate about the organization and what the organization provides. But it is tiring for these people to run the show all by themselves and bad from the perspective of inheritance of the organization. Because if the knowledge is not inherited forward it will stop existing or face many problems.  

To increase volunteers in the organization it is recommended to make the organization’s operations simply explained, have it state how/where/when can people be interested to join activities/work and the information should be easy to access. Summarizing what can you do, when, what can you get from it, and how much needs to be tributed to the organization and volunteering work increases the interest in volunteers. Because they are able to see what is wanted and required from them and they have easy access to the information so the bar to join is low.

2.  Active Recruiting

Recruiting all year long helps organizations to have members all the time and makes it easy for anyone to join at any point. It messages to the people interested that the organization is ready for them when they are ready to join, making the bar to join low. There should be at least one person or a team working and handling recruiting process and marketing it. To make sure the organization receives new members and introduces them to the organization’s work.  

It is good to have to recruit for different specific positions as well, like media officer. The recruitment should state what kind of skills are looked at and what kind of person is wanted. This gives people with those skills or people who are interested to practise those skills an opportunity and more interest because they are interested in the responsibility and skill of the position.  

In recruitment is important to meet the people and make sure they feel noticed and welcomed. Most organizations fail to welcome new members or leave them on their own luck after they have accepted to be part of the organization. That is why it is important to have active communication with these new volunteers, invite them personally to join events, and introduce them to the organization and how it works.  

3. Volunteer’s motivations 

For the organization, it is important that they consider what are their volunteer’s interests and motivations, so they can understand the people working for them better. For some, the motivation to volunteer can be to help the less fortunate but another is to mention it in their CV. After understanding people’s different sources of motivation and interests leader is able to offer these people tasks that they are truly interested in and see value in it. Also something they may benefit from. This way the people are most likely to stay in an active role in the organization longer because they are able to carry out things they value.  

How to get to know their motivation or what are they interested in is to have a survey done along them. It can be a survey they do when they join as a volunteer or something that is done once or twice a year. Another way to get to know volunteers is to talk and socialize with them and get to know them. 

4. The right person to do the right thing 

The volunteers own different skills and talents, that benefit the organization. That’s why it is important to praise these talents and skills by offering these people tasks where they can shine or learn to shine. A leader needs to own a game eye when giving out responsibilities and tasks so that they are given to the right people who are able to execute what is asked. There are also tasks or times when organizations own manpower and volunteers are not able to perform the way it is needed. For that, leaders and organizations should recognize to recruit some new people to perform in it or hire outside help, to secure it is done well. 

To ensure the right people are in the right place, giving out responsibility should always be thought and celebrated for the person getting it. First, it needed to make clear what task and responsibility you are looking person for. Then think about what kind of person would fit it and how valuable is the task or responsible role for the organization. After having a clear vision of it, you are able to make a list of who would fit the role best. Then asking these people who would fit the best to have this role. To keep in mind, do not ask people who will most likely do it anyways because those people may have their hands full of other stuff but accepted the role or task anyways. You should speak openly about the role or task to arouse people’s interest. But not to make it sound that somebody should just take it because nobody wants to be somebody. Asking people openly, directly, and personally if they would be interested in it helps. Because then they are noticed and shown that you think there is potential in them. 

5. Career path in the organization 

It is good to think about what the organization offers for the volunteers and how they recruit and train their volunteers to become key players. How to get people to take responsibility and make sure it continues. It can be thought that the just-starting volunteers participate in tasks that are more easily so they can learn the organization’s ways. After getting to know the organization and participating actively they can be given more responsible tasks or granted taking part in something more interesting. After they have been in the organization and participated in its different things it would lead the volunteer to pursue to become titles a key player like a chairman of the organization. 

To make sure volunteers stay active, they should be treated as valuable. By noticing them as individuals and the work they do. By thanking, praising, and encouraging them. By offering them different ways to educate themselves for example offering courses and checking up about it with them. By keeping them informed via email about the things going on in the organization. By holding get-togethers for all the members to join and enjoy each other’s company.   

It is good to think about what needs there are for the volunteers and what they desire from the organization in the different stages of their membership. For example, just started volunteering needs help and guidance, and encouragement to join the organization’s activities. An older member might need a task that challenges them and what comes with some form of responsibility. It is good to also pay attention to members who have left temporarily because of outside reasons like sickness to keep them updated and make them feel that they are welcomed back when it feels good to them. 

6. It’s teamwork 

Working in an organization as a volunteer, you are expected to work in a team. It is important for the management and the leader’s side to make sure the team’s work and the members of the team feel good and appreciated. For this is good to familiarize yourself with the different stages a team faces the forming phase, the storming phase, and the working space. The ideal amount of people in a team is 3-5 people, so the workload is divided equally and nobody should feel left out.  

As a leader it is important to observe the teams and different phases, so you can interfere if it the team is not working out or the chemistries are not matching. When there is a bigger conflict it is important to keep calm, investigate what has happened and go over the situation together and come up with the result together.  

It is important in the forming phase to courage the team and remind them of the reason or goal why they are working. As well as let them work out rules for their team and let them innovate together.  

In the storming phase, the team members try to find their roles and purpose in the team. They may face a conflict in some form. But as a leader, you should courage the team to settle out by themselves and only interfere if needed. The team should become stronger after overcoming a conflict together. As a leader, you can also remind the team of their purpose and praise space for honest talk. 

In the working phase, the team should be able to perform. As a leader to make sure teams are reminded of their goals you can set small challenges for the teams. This way they can celebrate small wins that keep them motivated. Also when it is going well it is good to go over with the team why it is so and courage to give each other feedback on the work they have done. 

At the end, when the team has reached its goal it is important to make time for the feedback session. Where the team will go over their journey together, what went well what didn’t and what to improve. In the end is time for celebration and a big thank you to the whole team.  

7. Thanking and feedback 

It has been mentioned many times that thanking the volunteer and making them feel appreciated is important. Because it is something that ensures the volunteer comes again and is active because they feel appreciated and valued.  

There are many ways of thanking people and for that, it is good for the leader to think beforehand about how to do it. What is the best way of thanking each and every one? How big of a work they have done and how they should be rewarded for it, for example with a gift card. Thanking volunteers’ families and friends should be remembered when working on a big and long task. 

While it is important to thank the people, it is also needed to give them feedback on the job that they have done. Constructive feedback that is given with care shows the volunteer that their work is noticed and cares how they perform. When giving feedback it is important to think about how to give it and how people react to it. To make sure the volunteer doesn’t understand the feedback in the wrong way it is good to state why the feedback is given and what is the intention behind it. It is good to also ask how the individual wants to receive their feedback, to avoid discomfort.  

Gathering feedback from the volunteers is important for the organization to improve. That is why it is important that it is asked for and processed. Especially if there has been something that didn’t go so well, so there can be improvements made. Getting feedback from volunteers can be hard if it feels like there is no time for it. It is good to make dedicated time for the feedback or try different styles of gathering feedback.  

8. Reports are the brain of the organization 

Reports about the events made by the volunteers guarantee that the organization is able to organize the event next year even if the organizers have changed. It is not always understood by the volunteers why there is a need for reports, but it is one of the pillars of the organization. Because these reports contain information on how things were done and what was needed to do for it to work. It is a big time saver for the volunteers because they do not need to think and make research about how to do some task or event. Because they are able to read the important things regarding it from the last year’s report. There can be also a read if something needed improvement or change.  

The person who is responsible for the report should be noted it in the early stage of the event/task. They should be someone who is able to participate in the event/task to observe what happened and they should be comfortable asking for feedback on the spot.  

To make it easy for the volunteers to make the report, they should be given a ready template. In that way, the organization will receive the information that is important to them. 

Things to involve in the report can be: 

  • The general picture of the event, goals, and results. 
  • How did it go, what went well, what didn’t 
  • Schedule of the event 
  • Summary of the feedback gotten 
  • Budget 
  • List of contacts that were needed for the event, sponsors, partners 
  • Pictures, articles, etc.  

On the organizational side, it is important that the reports are read and processed. Because they consist of valuable feedback on where the organization can improve from. It is also important when reporting is required from the volunteers it is practiced in all the organization’s departments.  

9. Leading volunteers 

Usually, the leaders come to the position after being a part of the organization for a significant time or after bringing a big amount of value to it. The position is something that needs to be earned to make guarantee the succeeding in it. Because the volunteers are participating in the organization from their own interest, and if they do not believe in the leader or lack trust in them, it can cause them to leave.  

Things to remember when leading volunteers: 

  • Volunteers are mostly there to participate in the action. They do not particularly are interested in or motivated by planning, having responsibility, or leading.  
  • A positive tone and motivational speech inspire and keep them going and coming back.  
  • Showing that you are trustworthy by example and with your actions. 
  • Trusting the volunteers and showing it. 
  • Being transparent and showing transparency in your communication.  
  • Get to know the volunteers.  
  • Divide the task equally between the volunteers and make sure everyone is coping.  
  • Be flexible. 

After practicing leadership in the organization it is important to reflect on how it is going. Getting feedback from your work is important and if it seems that the work you do as a leader is not good and is turning out to be bad for the organization, a good leader knows to back out.  

10. Allow getting inspired and dream big 

Dreaming big and allowing the imagination to inspire can lead to great things. It is good at an organizational level to stop from time to time and allow inspiration to take lead and dream big. It may lead to out-of-the-box ideas. 

In the organization, it is good to set new goals yearly on the organizational level and reflect on whether the goals set were met or not. When setting goals it should be considered whether are they short or long-term goals and set on the size of the goal. While setting out goals it is good to set an action plan for it to determine the steps.  

Don’t be afraid to dream too big. Allow yourself to dream big and get lost in the dream by paying attention to the small details, paying attention to the quality, and not being too humble about it. But it is important to focus on things that matter and fit your organization because one organization can not do it all.  


Some steps to consider if you are looking to increase the voluntary work in an organization that is based on voluntary work. Steps also help to create an organization where the volunteer feels appreciated and taken care of.


Karreinen L. , Halonen M. and Tennilä M. 2013. 10 askelta parempaan vapaaehtoistoimintaan

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