3 Ways to Improve Efficiency in Volunteer Management

If your organization is like most others, resources are limited. In these situations, the key to efficiency is ensuring that each resource is used to its fullest potential. And, as we all know, one of the most important resources is time. This is especially true in volunteer management, since a volunteer's time is a gift and should never be taken for granted. To ensure you're using volunteer time wisely, consider the following three ideas to increase efficiency.

1. Evaluate your tools

Take inventory of the tools you use when managing volunteers and programs to ensure they're not outdated, inefficient, or simply slowing everyone down. This applies to everything from hardware to software.

Start by talking to your volunteers to identify pain points with current tools. Next, make a list of the categories of tools you need. For example, you may need a better volunteer scheduling software or an online database for storing volunteer training materials.

Once you've identified the type of tools you need, start exploring what's available. Consider exploring tools from software review sites such as Capterra or G2. Another option is to read listicles as a launching pad for your research, like those available on the Keela, Wild Apricot, and TechNetworks of Boston sites, which lists tools that are helpful — and sometimes free!

If you're part of an association, find out what tools they recommend for your sector and specific needs. Associations often collaborate with sector-specific companies and have discounts for products and services available to association members.

2. Communicate effectively

Clear communication is key to ensuring your volunteer programs run smoothly. To increase productivity, be sure to periodically audit your organization's communication with volunteers to identify if communication could be better, and if so, where it gets stuck. Ask questions such as:

How many channels of communication are available?
Is it clear when to use which channel?
When and where do messages get lost?
When and why does communication get bottlenecked?

Talk to volunteers to find points of friction they experience when communicating within your organization. List them. Once the issues are identified, start crafting solutions to tackle the most common or costly issues first and then move on to the less costly later.

One potential solution is to unify communication channels. While some diversity of communication tools is nice, it can become disorienting and inefficient if not kept under control. For example, if some volunteers rely on email, others use social media, while still others use text, it's easy for messages to get lost or forgotten. Establish one tool for communication so that everyone knows where to send messages, share documents, and make requests.

What's more, if communication is getting bottlenecked around one person, such as a busy administrator, determine if an assistant could increase efficiency. This could even become a new volunteer position. An assistant could filter incoming emails and calls to keep communication rolling at a steady pace.

However, if an assistant isn't an option, establish a workable plan to help the team member field incoming questions and requests in a more efficient manner. It may just require identifying a helpful tool to use or setting up a protocol for how communication should flow.

3. Remove roadblocks

One of the biggest hindrances to productivity is waiting on others to complete tasks. Cut down on roadblocks by delegating.

Start by examining your organization's volunteer workflows. Talk to your volunteers about where their tasks commonly get stuck. Investigate whether distributing responsibilities more evenly would alleviate some of the stalls your team is experiencing. If you find room for improvement, identify ways to delegate more and create systems that allow for a smoother flow and increased productivity.

Start by identifying which volunteers have the bandwidth to take on additional responsibilities. Then determine which tasks would fit their knowledge and skill sets. Ensure that expectations are clear, such as whether or not there is an end date and when they should feel comfortable reaching out for questions or feedback, then set a time to check back and debrief.

If you're looking for a tool that will help you streamline communication and remove many of the roadblocks that come with volunteer scheduling, consider signing up for a 15-day free trial of Volunteer Scheduler Pro or call (888) 877-3640 to learn what VSP can do for your organization!

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