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Volunteer management capacity

According to the Institute for Volunteering Research, volunteer management capacity is the extent to which "organizations have the knowledge, expertise, resources, policies, procedures and systems to effectively manage volunteers."  Managing volunteers includes:

  • recruiting volunteers and selecting from a pool of candidates or interested people;
  • providing volunteers with sufficient orientation and training;
  • co-ordinating, scheduling, organizing, supervising and supporting volunteer positions, shifts, tasks within your organization;
  • evaluating the performance and effectiveness of volunteers; and
  • cultivating, administering and assessing volunteer partnerships.

The following factors may limit your organization's volunteer management capacity:

  • Few or no paid staff
  • Limitated space/facilities
  • Very small numbers of clients
  • Few program activities
  • Few tasks which are appropriate for volunteers
  • Limited days and times

Capacity is not just about whether your organization can effectively manage volunteers, but also how many and what kind.  Some organizations can effectively manage 2 or 3 volunteers who come once a week on different days.  Others can effectively manage 20 or 30 volunteers at a time. Some projects are better for large short-term or one-time groups.  Other tasks may be better suited for long-term or ongoing volunteers.   

The service learning program at Loyola considers volunteer management capacity when forming and renewing partnerships.  We invite all prospective and current partners to consider this question carefully.  In general, we:

  • do not partner with organizations which intend to use service learning students to start programs which do not yet exist;
  • do not partner with organizations which only have short-term, one-time volunteer needs; 
  • prefer partnering with organizations who can make a multi-year commitment to hosting at least a few volunteers every semester; and
  • encourage all partners to develop a strong self-understanding of their own volunteer management capacity.

For more information, see "Management matters: a national survey of volunteer management capacity," an April 2008 report from the Institute for Volunteering Research.  View the full report here.