Skip to main content

Organizational Factors Affecting Strategic Volunteer Management

Organizational Factors Affecting Strategic Volunteer Management

This issue’s Research to Practice provides great food for thought on organizational factors affecting volunteer management. For example, how do the goals of the organization, area of activity, or degree of bureaucracy impact the role that a volunteer management program can take in the strategic achievement of an organization’s mission? How can organizational settings be “assessed and aligned to the needs of volunteers, but also to those of the organization and society at large?”

In this article, reviewer Laurie Mook shares insights from Sibylle Studer and Georg von Schnurbein, two researchers from the Centre for Philanthropy Studies at the University of Basel in Switzerland. They reviewed and synthesized academic literature relevant to volunteer management from 1967 to 2011, looking for evidence to help explain how nonprofit organizational factors supported or restricted volunteer management. As the researchers found, there are many studies looking at ‘who volunteers’ and ‘why people volunteer,’ but studies from the organizational perspective are not as prevalent. Mook presents their findings and other conclusions about organizational factors and how they impact strategic volunteer management.

To read the full article

Wed, 11/14/2012
This really is an interesting piece and refers to a great study. But I think Laurie really poses some great questions to us as Volunteer Managers. When I work with other organizations, I always tell them there is no "one size fits all" approach to volunteer management. And I actually just had a meeting with some people last week trying to develop a "one size fits all" online system for volunteers - knowing in my head the whole time that this would be a hard product to sell. Every organization is different in its approach to engaging and retaining volunteers. And as important as it is for volunteer managers to tailor their intake and program management procedures to their organizations and staff, it really must depend too on each individual volunteer. For instance at our organization we have a variety of volunteers. Our episodic volunteers we engage in cleanups and other one day activities - anyone who meets the requirements can participate. But those that work in our office undergo an interview and orientation period to determine if it's the right fit. And those that work in our education programs must undergo interviews, training, background checks, you name it. If we had to rely on a cookie-cutter procedure for engaging all of our volunteers, we would never get any of the smaller day to day hands-on work done at our organization. We engage over 2,000 volunteers a year - if we had to follow the same procedure for all of them, our restoration projects would be untouched, as would our coastlines. Having this variety of program options and engagement is important to the vitality of our organization - but just because they enter in different ways, doesn't mean they are treated differently. Every volunteer, whether answering phones, educating kids and families, or picking up trash is equally valuable to our mission and work. Ensuring that you can provide metrics for your program and also open feedback for the volunteers, and sharing that with the staff, that is what truly makes the volunteer program a valuable and nurturing program - where staff don't fear volunteers, volunteers feel valued and appreciated, and everyone looks forward to volunteer engagement.

Mon, 12/10/2012
I was fascinated by and very grateful for this article, having spent the past 3+ years redesigning my organziation's volunteer program while seeing other colleagues struggle. There are things I have done that have been very formulaic and successful, but I know factors within our organization set us up for success and I would like to understand these better. I found myself wanting more details on the organizational factors mentioned in the "Factors that Cannot be Changed" section: level of resources, reliance on volunteers, contracts, HR scale, etc. What correlations have been made between these factors and the success vs. underutilization of volunteer engagement? I am also interested in the studies that got mixed results from the typical HR model based on paid staff for volunteer management. Our focus is more on volunteers as a supplement to paid staff, but we are beginning to focus more on the fact that volunteer engagement brings double-, triple-, etc. bottom line by demonstrating community support, educating the next generation of practioners, better leveraging resources, and bringing a unique (and sometimes more effective) type of relationship-building. We have had some success advocating for resources for volunteer engagement using this approach and will continue to do so.