As a volunteer-driven organization, we need to be constantly looking out for our volunteers and their needs. An AFS office is only as strong as its team, so it’s every Volunteer Manager responsibility to make sure our volunteers are having a good experience, as this will reflect on our impact as an organization.

However, managing such a big number of volunteers comes with many challenges! We’ve gathered some of the more common mistakes in Volunteer Management and what actions can you do to solve them.

Lack of Communication

Clear and regular communication is key: it helps volunteers understand their responsibilities and develop a stronger sense of commitment, as they feel heard and recognized for their job.

Creating a volunteer communications plan will help you reach your volunteers and keep track of your results. Profile your volunteers according to their communication preferences and develop a plan has a mix of social media, phone calls, emails and in person-meetings to make sure everyone gets effectively contacted

Not Establishing Clear Objectives

Volunteers won’t be able to do a good job if they don’t know what’s expected of them. Keep track of different tasks and projects, as overwhelmed and burn out volunteers will move faster to the disengagement phase.

Set simple objectives that they can track, and make sure they get the support they need to achieve them. You’ll see more efficient results and volunteers will learn more from these experiences!

Prioritizing Recruitment over Retention

Increasing our volunteer base is important, but keeping our current volunteers happy is even more. Volunteer rotation and short life-spans are common problems around the network, so increasing retention must be a priority for Volunteer Managers.

Showing public recognition of their job, investing in training and focusing on providing them with the resources they need to succeed will lead to higher volunteer retention.

Not Empowering your Volunteers

Volunteers who aren’t confident in their abilities to impact the organization tend to lose motivation faster. Helping them develop their leadership ability and new skills will reflect on a healthier organization.

AFS is incredibly diverse,  we are lucky to collaborate with people with different backgrounds, skills, and interests. Assign tasks related to the specific strengths of your volunteers and plan regular training to help them expand their knowledge. Keep chapter presidents as your allies for this: they can give you more in-depth information about their local volunteers and act as mentors to empower them.

Overlooking the Value of your Volunteers

Volunteers are the heart of AFS, but sometimes we forget the impact they can have.  Not seeing the breadth of involvement volunteers can have reduces their engagement.

People choose to volunteer with AFS because they want to be involved with the efforts we do for intercultural learning. The more leadership responsibility you give them, the better they like it. Give your volunteers meaningful work, and explain why some tasks that may not seem so valuable are important to the organization.

Think if any of these challenges are present in your AFS-reality when you’re working on your volunteer development strategy. Get to know your volunteers, and invite other staff to do the same. Listening to what they are saying and prioritizing their needs will make them feel welcomed and motivate them to get more involved in AFS!