Drawing the Line with Volunteers

From time to time I am forced to deal with the limits of my volunteer core. This is typically due to either the changing needs of the organization or the changing skill sets of the volunteers. It is my experience that organizations tend to overestimate what volunteers can do. Large projects that should be put under the responsibility of staff or just left to the way side are marked for volunteers. In other circumstances a passionate volunteer who made an event or program run may move out of the area and leave a void that no other volunteer can or will fill.

For the sake of preserving the longevity of service for the maximum number of volunteers, the volunteer coordinator must carefully weigh the options and the abilities of his/her current volunteer staff. This is a time to ask hard questions such as, “If we allocate volunteers for this new/vacant area, will other programs or events suffer?” “Do our current volunteers have the time, experience, and desire to work in this new/vacant area?” It goes without saying that the big picture must be kept in mind. How important is this new or vacant area to the organization? Once you find where this program or event fits in with the whole, you must line up the need with your current volunteer core. Perhaps you will be required to recruit new volunteers. Perhaps you will have to hire another part time staff member. Perhaps you need to reallocate your current employees. Whatever the case, be careful that you are not overreaching your current volunteer boundaries.

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