Top 10 Things Not To Do While Managing Volunteers | Track It Forward

Top 10 Things Not To Do While Managing Volunteers

Last updated by James McBryan on 03/16/2021

Volunteer Managers and Coordinators have a lot going on in their work schedules. They usually have to run a whole volunteer program, manage all different types of volunteers, and manage volunteer time tracking and running reports. 

If you manage volunteers, you might find yourself getting overwhelmed by all the things you have to do, but what about all the things you shouldn’t do? Honestly, this list might be shorter! The process of actually managing volunteers is a lot of communication and testing which personality methods work best with different workers. 

When managing volunteers, there are definitely different methods to consider for winning their affection or maintaining their volunteerism. After all, we are trying to retain these volunteers! When managing volunteers, it is important to think about volunteer retainment, and a lot of retainment comes from engaging volunteers, the right way! 

Here is our Top 10 List Of Things You SHOULD NOT Do While Managing Volunteers

1. Treat volunteers like grunt workers. Volunteers are not just there to do the unwanted tasks. When managing volunteers, you might have to give them the non-glamourous tasks within your organization, but make sure they know this is only once every so often, not an everyday thing. 

2. Involve paid staff regularly. When assigning volunteer duties, or managing volunteer events, don't let your paid employees in on the planning or dictate anything that a volunteer would consider important. You should be the only one managing volunteers and volunteer activities. If other staff members start getting involved in managing volunteers, there might be a weird wedge driven between paid staff and volunteers. Volunteers might feel underappreciate, paid staff might feel like they are stepping on toes or vice versa! 

3. Wing It! If you are managing volunteers, congratulations, you are a planner! There should officially be no more “winging it” in the world of volunteer management. Do not ask volunteers to do anything before you've determined what needs to be accomplished and how. Wasting a volunteer's time is a sure way to get rid of them.

4. Give volunteers too much responsibility. Some volunteers might ask if they can do more to help or what else they can do, but you should never give them so much responsibility that they feel stressed or overwhelmed. If a volunteer wants extra responsibilities, they should formally state what they would like to do extra and how much time they can commit. This way, you won’t overwork them. 

5. Berate a volunteer's every move. Managing volunteers does not mean micromanaging their every move. If you are good at planning and training, you should not have to hold their hand every step of the way! And, you should not give volunteers tasks that are so important that they must be done one way, or else you are stressed. When managing volunteers, make sure that your tone of voice is especially condescending.

6. Isolate volunteers. Managing volunteers does mean checking in on them and making sure they are happy. This is way different from micromanaging! Don’t stick them in a corner somewhere without any human connection or interaction, or with a mundane task. If they have to do a task alone or want to, at least make sure they are connected with the group of volunteers or with you! 

7. Make volunteer’s tasks feel little. While volunteers might not be doing the most important task, they still should feel like they are making an impact! Managing volunteers might feel like it is a lot more hassle than impact, but your volunteers should never feel like that. Don’t go into great detail about how a project failed. And in addition, don’t invite them to work on a project that is likely to fail due to inadequate funding.

8. Ignore volunteers. The best volunteer managers know a lot about their volunteers and have a relationship with them. If your volunteer program is extremely large, this can be hard, but you should never not try to build a relationship with volunteers! Volunteers are spending their free time to help you, make sure you show your appreciation at all times, not just once a year at a banquet or around the holidays. 

9. Shower volunteers with smother-love. But again, don’t take managing volunteers and the relationships you build too far. Don’t call your volunteer at home, several times a week, to tell them what a great job they did. If they are not with you, volunteering, you probably don’t need to try to contact them, and especially not about non-related volunteer things. 

10. Hide Important Details From Volunteers. Volunteers like to be in the know, and while they don’t need to be a part of everything, they do need to know important details about the organization they are spending their free time with, if possible! Especially when worldwide events are occurring, or your organization might need extra help - volunteers are going to be curious anyway, you might as well let them in! 


Volunteer management is hard work, but you are doing such an important job of helping people volunteer, which makes them healthier, and you are helping an important organization reach its goals. So keep being awesome at managing volunteers, and just remember to not do any of these things!