Volunteer manager Fight Club

While I don’t believe managers of volunteers are the same as human resources managers, these two professions do have a LOT in common. That’s why I subscribe to the newsletter from workforce.com: they bring such fantastic articles and blogs to my attention that can relate to volunteer engagement.

One of the recent things they brought to my attention is an entry on Fistful of Talent, a blog for “recruiters, HR, consultants and corporate types on all things talent.” It’s by Dawn Hrdlica of DAXKO. She made a list of things HR managers should fight for – or, as she put it, 5 Things to Create a HR Fight Club Over. She says, “you gotta fight openly for these gems.”

I loved the list, and have adapted it for those in charge of volunteer engagement at their organizations. When I’m quoting directly from Ms. Hrdlica, I put the text in colored italics. And I’m encouraging those who manage or coordinate an organization’s volunteer engagement to fight for six things:

    1. Fight for your volunteers: They aren’t yours in the sense that you own them, but they ARE yours in the sense that you are responsible for them, and they are counting on you to have their best interest at heart and to make sure the organization does too! Damn it… fight for them when they aren’t being recognized or listened to. Get their contributions in the annual report and on the web site, and NOT just as “wage replacement” or “money saved.” Bring up their contributions and challenges in staff meetings. Make sure the organization celebrates them just as much as it celebrates financial donors.
  • Fight for your team: Volunteers aren’t free, and it takes a huge amount of time and resources to ensure their work is meaningful for both your organization and for them. They are doing a whole lot of work behind the scenes that others may not see. It’s up to YOU to make sure that work gets seen by everyone at your organization, especially senior management!
  • Fight for your time: We are all busy. But if you don’t put the ki-bosh on all the unnecessary noise… you… will… drown. Many of us say, “But to be a good customer service agent I have to, always be available”. You also have to be PRESENT. If you are overwhelmed, interrupted or constantly jump when others say jump… you will not be present. Fight for you-time ’cause no one else will.
  • Fight for your budget. What gets cut first when things go bad? Volunteer management budgets. Because volunteers are free, right? Your budget must be detailed to show exactly how much time and effort it takes to engage all of the volunteers you have, and you must be able to say what the consequences of cutting your budget will be (less volunteers, and those that are left providing left sources, and numbers to back that up), in terms of real numbers. At least fight for the budget to stay in tact. You may not get it – but at least you can sleep at night knowing you’re not a coward.
  • Fight for your resources. You need volunteer management software, not just a few lines of data entry on the donor management software. You need interactive features on the volunteer-related pages of your organizations web site. You need to keep your training up-to-date and, therefore, need to go to a conference or workshop that will upgrade your skills. You may need a paid part-time or full-time assistant, or more than one, to be able to involve and support more volunteers at your organization. Don’t let some lame brain tell senior management that the donor software will meet all of your needs, that you can’t have the interactive features on the volunteer-related pages that other departments have with clients and donors because it’s too expensive or not possible (because it’s NOT), and that volunteers are free. And if you need more help, prove why and fight for it. Last but not least:
  • Fight for your salary. Fundraising managers, donor relations managers and even the HR manager are all making more than you. Why? Those people constantly show how all the things they do are critical to the organization. The organization believes that under-funding or cutting those positions who be disastrous to the organization. In addition, those other staff people are asking for more money and getting it. They are ASKING FOR IT. Pay peanuts… get monkeys. Don’t be a monkey.


Managers of volunteers have reputations of being nice. It’s time to start working towards a reputation of being absolutey necessary. It’s time to join the volunteer management Fight Club!

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to get you all to fight…

12 thoughts on “Volunteer manager Fight Club

  1. Meldra Driscoll

    Wonderful comments — I’m all for the fight club!!!!!! Too many times, Volunteer Departments, are left in the dust while others fluorish — proving that we are vital to the organization is absolutely necessary!!! So often I head volunteers say, "I’m just a volunteer…." — I think that’s sad too, because it tells me that they don’t know their own value to the organization!

  2. Claire Teal

    Two words, Jayne – LOVE IT!!!Ok, so more than two words, actually… What really grabbed me about what you have written here is the fact that you have shown that fighting for ourselves as Managers of Volunteers does NOT have to come at the expense of volunteers and volunteer programmes – in fact, it enables the volunteer programme and, as a result, the volunteering experience at your organisation, to get better. I get bugged to the core when I hear Managers of Volunteers say ‘oh, but I can’t push this for myself, because it’s all about the volunteers / it takes the focus off the volunteers / insert similar comment’. When we fight for ourselves, we also fight for our volunteers, for the contribution they make to our organisations and to our community. When we don’t fight, we not only let ourselves down, but the volunteers we claim to be committed to as well.

  3. DJ Cronin

    Oh Jayne!! So Right so right. I think I???ve been in the Fight club for awhile now. It would be nice to emerge from the underground. I???ve been saying this type of thing for years. Damn it, I???ve been fighting for volunteers within several organisations for years. With great results. I???ve been fighting for our teams to be seen by senior management and they are seen. I am beginning to fight for my time. Budget, resources, salary? Tick. Tick. Tick. But my experience of the fight club has led me to discover another club. The Fright Club. You may have encountered it Jayne. Some within my own sector who deem me a trouble maker or full of hot air or ???having an agenda???. Like hello? I do have an agenda???and it is set out in your fight club manifesto. The Fright club consists of those within the volunteering sector afraid to embrace change because they are challenged by it. Change may mean scrutiny after all. You state ???Fundraising managers, donor relations managers and even the HR manager are all making more than you.??? And you can be pretty sure they all have Key Performance indicators to ensure a consistent performance level that demonstrate a valuable and viable Return on Investment. Not for them to be meek and fly under the radar with their niceness and quietness.???Oh but we are volunteer managers ??? we don???t talk that kinda talk???.Professional and effective volunteer management is absolutely necessary Jayne. It is time to join the volunteer management Fight Club but it???s also time to take on the Fright Club!

  4. VolunteerHub

    Jayne, This post really drives home the point that volunteers are an irreplaceable asset worth fighting for! Volunteers are the backbone of nonprofits – so we must do everything in our power to make sure that their needs are met and their best interest is always kept in mind. All to often, organizations overlook the importance of simply recognizing volunteers for their hard work & dedication. A simple "thank you" once in a while can go a long way in maintaining positive relationships with volunteers. Your point about fighting for your resources also hit home with me. After all, if you don’t fight for the resources you need and develop a convincing argument as to why you need them, these "extra" resources will be the first on the chopping block. As you mentioned, having a volunteer management software in place to schedule, track, and manage volunteers will significantly reduce administrative labor and costs, thus improving overall productivity of your nonprofit. Volunteer software also makes the act of volunteering much easier on volunteers by empowering participants to do things like sign up for events online, manage personal records, and even track volunteer hours. When you find the system that you are looking for, be prepared to "sell" your idea to senior management and fight, fight, fight. Great article! Your list is a must read for anyone and everyone involved with the management of volunteers. Thanks for sharing.

  5. jcravens

    Thanks "Volunteer Hub"… although your post sounds like a pitch for volunteer management software… so much so that I almost didn’t approve it.


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