In any non-profit organization or that faced with budgetary constraints, volunteers form an integral part of its daily operations. Globally, many institutions rely solely on volunteer programs to expand their service delivery and programs to a larger base. A savvy management at an organization must realize that volunteers if not managed with decorum may pose a risk to the organizational framework (Farrell, Johnston, & Twynam, 2008, p. 289). However, initiating a robust reward mechanism, recruitment processes, training, and volunteer’s supervision may reduce the risk. For instance, the program directors at the Online University failed to manage their volunteers efficiently, and, as a result, many resigned and left the station. Respecting, appreciating and maintaining a good rapport with a University’s volunteer is paramount in gaining a competitive advantage over other rival institutions (Farrell, Johnston, & Twynam, 2008, p. 292).
Causes and management of the understaffed Online University
Online University to a large extent is largely based on volunteering programs since it is seriously understaffed. Managing such an institution is distressing and affects the productivity and work performance of the existing workforce (Farrell, Johnston, & Twynam, 2008, p. 294). Budget constraints at the institution necessitate the cutting of the workforce and the need for more volunteers at the agency. The older employees are obliged to consider early retirements while the younger employees opt for a rival organization. In managing an understaffed organization, the management must focus on quality service delivery to attract a larger customer base. External Volunteers can also be involved to supplement the lean workforce (Farrell, Johnston, & Twynam, 2008, p. 296). These will increase the productive capabilities of the University, thus increasing revenue acquisition and a flexible budget to enable hiring of more paid staffs. Similarly, the Human Resource Manager should design a comprehensive paid employee and volunteers retention plan that focuses on effective communication and rewarding of exemplary workforce performances. The volunteers’ program coordinator should regularly recess personal objectives to ensure they still match the institution’s goals.
The importance of compatible Volunteer management at Online University
In general, management of any particular workforce refers to the act of effectively and efficiently utilizing human resources to attain organizational goals. A good Human Resource Management entails active involvement of all stakeholders in the operations of the institution (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 234). Managing volunteers in any system requires extraordinary leadership skills and commitment from the program coordinator. The primary purpose of volunteer management is to comprehend articulately and be committed to the volunteering ethos and factors that motivate the volunteers. The organization should first develop a mission and vision statements explicitly highlighting reasons why the firm operates (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 236). Comprehensive short and long-term goals of the institution and an effective monitoring and evaluation unit should be in place. Successful management of volunteers will most likely attract more individuals willing to assist in the organization. The management should define the roles of the volunteers in the University, their relationship with the paid staff, and their operational limits. A good volunteer is characterized by a deep commitment to the specified role assigned, willingness and ability to work under constraints, team playing, and flexibility.
Developing an effective volunteer management program
Improving volunteers’ retention at the Online University
The program coordinator should aim at a higher retention rate at the University. This can be possible if all volunteers are accorded the necessary respect as other employees and their contributions appreciated. This creates a sense of belonging to the volunteers making them more willing to continue with their service delivery. The management should grant the volunteers professional freedom and not restricting them to specific tasks within the organization (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 241). This will enable them offer varied expertise and experiences and personal developments. Similarly, the project coordinator should be sensitive to the volunteers’ needs, and develop an explicit communication framework and risk prevention mechanisms. Providing unequivocal moral and social support to all members of the staff can only serve to increase retention level at the University. This is done by creating opportunities share experiences and to get together in a social setting (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 244).
Supporting the University volunteers
The University should be very supportive to its staff through an active organizational framework. This implies that, the volunteer’s program coordinator remains top notch and committed to the volunteers’ needs and values. Similarly, appreciating and recognizing the volunteers’ efforts and service delivery through an occasional simple ‘thank you’ notes raises an individual volunteer’s self-esteem (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 247). Occasionally organizing award dinners to specific volunteers, though may not be comfortable with some volunteers, is mostly an active step. Lastly, the University should offer training support to volunteers through regular seminars on particular topics and robust orientation programs.
The program evaluation
The program coordinator should carry a constant evaluation of the performances of individual volunteers (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 251). This involves ascertaining how well the volunteers are achieving the set goals, missions and visions. Self-assessment should be encouraged and identifying other vital programs the volunteer may be involved in to enhance individual productivity (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 251).
Steps towards effective volunteer management
Enhancing the volunteer’s involvement in the University Operations
The volunteer program coordinator should provide a role description of a volunteer by identifying the expected outcomes, and at the same time allowing the volunteer to determine own ways of achieving the results (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 255). The volunteers should also be involved in the identification of own personal development needs and the organization of institutional programs. Similarly, the program coordinator should spend more time with the volunteers reviewing their individual goals and issues affecting them. The University should also clarify the limit of authority for every volunteer and to trust them with responsible tasks (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 256).
Enhancing volunteer personal and professional development
In achieving its set goals, the institution is tasked with identifying and achieving individual goals as part of mutual benefits derived from volunteerism (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 258). The institution should enhance the role of each volunteer, and in the process increasing individual responsibility level. Occasionally, the organization should change the character and individual volunteer responsibilities or even switch roles to enhance accountability. The University should conduct regular and rigorous external training programs in the volunteer’s area of specialization with other institutions through workshops and seminars (Eisner, Grimm, Maynard, & Washburn, 2011, p. 261).
Rewarding the University volunteers
By introducing benefits programs to the institution’s volunteers, the program coordinator develops a rewarding criterion based on service delivery and work commitment of individual volunteer (Hager, 2005, p. 39). Rewarding the employees is a way of reassuring them that their input and involvement in the University is beneficial and makes a difference. These amounts to positive feedback from the management on the volunteer’s contributions and may be a simple thank you email. The purpose of rewarding is to motivate and recognize that an individual volunteer that did something extra to the organization (Hager, 2005, p. 41). The compensation programs may constitute offering specialized training and graduation certificates and plaques to the volunteers and publishing individual volunteer exemplary work performances. Similarly, the institution should provide free snacks, medical cover, and library services to their volunteers. Occasionally offering paid positions at the University to outstanding volunteers is necessary for rewarding quality service deliveries and will go a long way in encouraging other volunteers to increase their commitment and loyalty levels. Inviting some volunteers to the institution’s routine staff meetings and listing to their individual inputs is motivating enough. These will encourage commitment, loyalty, and a good rapport between the University Management and the volunteers (Hager, 2005, p. 43).
Recruiting and screening volunteers at Online University
The University first stipulates why they need the volunteers, why the cause is worthy, and why the Online University is the best place to volunteer. Increasing volunteerism awareness will attract potential volunteers to the institution (Hager, 2005, p. 44). The program coordinator should then develop a written volunteer application form that will help in obtaining crucial information about a particular applicant. This will include the name of the applicant, contact details, educational background, professional and past volunteer experiences.
The Online University program coordinator should ensure that a proper internet background screening of all volunteers with particular focus on criminal histories, credit defaults among others (Hager, 2005, p. 46). The notice of a possible background screening should be communicated in the application forms and the type of check to be done explicitly highlighted to receive the applicants’ approval. The selection processes should provide details of the applicant’s skills, attitude, and knowledge. By recognizing that the recruited volunteers can be assets or liabilities to the University, the institution should have a reliable backup plan just in case the program backfires (Hager, 2005, p. 46).
Training programs are crucial components for successful operations of a non-profit institution and should be offered to all members of the university, both paid and unpaid (King, & Safrit, 2007, p. 112). The principle of efficient management and a viable organizational culture at each stage of the training processes should be introduced. These increases work commitments, loyalty, team playing, and a dedicated leadership. The problem experienced at the Online University may be due to shoddy training and recruitment processes of volunteers without thorough background screening and tests. This in turn creates chaotic inconsistencies in service delivery and quality service commitments as some of the volunteers may be ill-intentioned (King, & Safrit, 2007, p. 116).
Supervision of volunteers
Adequate and constant supervision of the University volunteers by a supervisor or an experienced volunteer is essential (King, & Safrit, 2007, p. 118). The director prepares regular feedbacks to volunteers on their performances and design appropriate action in case of any misconduct. By developing comprehensive action plans that involve all volunteers, the program coordinator will be in a better position to efficiently tap these rich human resources.
The volunteer program coordinator at Online University is facing immense pressure to recruit and retain better more of the University’s volunteers (King, & Safrit, 2007, p. 119). This by far is no mean task and commands a dedicated organizational and managerial structures coupled with a value for personal development and respect for diversity in a receptive culture. The University experiences should be those that enhance an individual’s personal growth in a caring organizational culture (King, & Safrit, 2007, p. 120). Appreciating and rewarding the volunteers should be part of the managerial strategies. Lastly, the program coordinator is mandated with initiating genuine communication and dialog with all volunteers to ensure that they feel wanted and appreciated by the institution. Many individuals globally are willing and able to give out some of their time towards a noble cause as long as they will feel that their contributions will be vital and put into use by the organization (King, & Safrit, 2007, p. 123).
Eisner, D., Grimm Jr, R. T., Maynard, S., & Washburn, S. (2011). The new volunteer workforce. Retrieved October, 3, 2011.
Farrell, J. M., Johnston, M. E., & Twynam, G. D. (2008). Volunteer motivation, satisfaction, and management at an elite sporting competition. Journal of Sport Management, 12(4), 288-300.
Hager, M. A. (2005). Volunteer management capacity in America’s charities and congregations: A briefing report.
King, J., & Safrit, R. D. (2007). Extension agents’ perceptions of volunteer management. Journal of extension, 36(3), 111-126.