Volunteer Management: The Essential Guide for Nonprofits

Volunteer Management: The Essential Guide to Engaging (and Keeping) Volunteers
Understand volunteer management.
Build a better volunteer program.
Retain more volunteers.

Volunteer Management:
The Essential Guide

What is Volunteer Management?

Volunteer management encompasses all of the steps a nonprofit takes to recruit, track, engage, and retain volunteers. Through effective volunteer management, your organization can build a more strategic, positive volunteer experience and cultivate long-term, mutually beneficial supporter relationships.

What Is Volunteer Management Software?

As its name would suggest, volunteer management software helps your nonprofit manage volunteer relationships. Similar to a donor database, volunteer management tools equip you with the tools to track volunteer information, including engagement history, contact information, and more.

Why Is Volunteer Engagement Important?

Though they may not be contributing financially, volunteers play a major role in your organization’s impact. To ensure your volunteers stick around and share your nonprofit’s mission with their peers, you should prioritize their engagement by developing a volunteer management and stewardship strategy.

Our Recommended Volunteer Management Software

Bloomerang Volunteer

Bloomerang Volunteer is a top volunteer management platform.

The Bloomerang Volunteer platform is a user-friendly volunteer management system that helps volunteer managers reclaim essential time back in their days. Nurture volunteer relationships with a streamlined sign-up process, automated reports and custom forms, and straightforward scheduling tools. Plus, Bloomerang Volunteer offers a two-way constituent profile sync with Bloomerang’s CRM, letting you identify volunteers with high giving potential and engage supporters in fundraising.


Mobilize is the leading volunteer management software to connect mission-based organizations and supporters.

Mobilize is a leading volunteer management platform to connect mission-based organizations with supporters. Its combination of event management features, automated communication tools, and a growing network of nearly 2 million volunteers can supercharge your organization’s events and energize your supporters.


POINT is a top example of a volunteer management software.

Get powerful, free (no, seriously!) volunteer management tools in minutes. POINT is an effective way to manage, engage, and mobilize volunteers. Get all the tools for your volunteer program: a robust cloud-based admin dashboard, seamless website integration, and an intuitive volunteer iOS + Android app. Did we mention it’s free for nonprofits?

Elements of Successful Volunteer Management

  • Volunteer Recruitment

    In order to build a successful volunteer program, you’ll first need to find some volunteers to manage. Volunteer recruitment is an ongoing process that includes promoting your opportunities, creating and processing supporter sign-ups, and screening potential volunteers. Remember: you’re not just seeking capable hands; you’re looking for invested individuals who care about your cause.

  • Volunteer Communications

    The nonprofit-volunteer relationship isn’t a one-way street. To effectively engage volunteers, you’ll need a communications plan that allows you to present important volunteer information as well as respond to volunteer feedback and questions. Your volunteer management software can help by centralizing communications and even automating some of your outreach.

  • Volunteer Empowerment

    Once you’ve secured your volunteers, you’ll need to ensure that they’re equipped and excited to step into their role at your organization. Your volunteer empowerment strategy includes appropriately placing volunteers into the best jobs, setting clear expectations, training and onboarding your volunteers, and supervising them during the shift. Set your volunteers up to succeed—and they will!

  • Volunteer Recognition

    An offshoot of volunteer communications, volunteer recognition should be a top priority as you outline your volunteer management plan. Proper volunteer acknowledgement can take many forms, from simple thank-you notes after a shift to full-blown volunteer appreciation events. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re consistently reminding your hardworking volunteers that you value their effort. Otherwise, they won’t stick around for long!

Types of Volunteer Involvement

Your volunteer management plan includes working with event volunteers, who help your organization by performing short-term, unskilled tasks.

Event Volunteering

Whether they’re helping set up and tear down your fundraising event or cleaning up the community on a day of service, event volunteers help your nonprofit on a short-term, unskilled basis. They make sure your efforts go off without a hitch!

Skills-Based Volunteering

In need of some accounting, legal work, or PR assistance? Skills-based volunteers can help! These volunteers may help on a one-off basis, but they may also work with your nonprofit throughout the duration of an ongoing project.

Long-term volunteers are an important aspect of your volunteer management plan, as they'll have an ongoing impact on your nonprofit's efforts.

Long-Term Volunteering

Whether performing skilled or unskilled work, long-term volunteering refers to a committed, ongoing partnership with clear expectations set from the start. Think: troop leaders, Sunday school teachers, youth mentors, or tutors.

Since administrative volunteers will be working within your nonprofit's offices on a daily basis, you'll need to develop a volunteer management plan that educates them on your best practices and policies.

Administrative Volunteering

From a friendly face at the reception desk to a data entry pro, your administrative volunteers show their devotion to your cause by supporting your nonprofit staff in the office. These volunteers are likely regulars at your organization, but they may not have a set commitment like an ongoing long-term volunteer.

Your volunteer management plan will encompass organizing and supervising volunteer committees, from event planning teams to your board.

Volunteer Committees

Often needed in conjunction with fundraising events, volunteer committees work together to accomplish specific tasks for your nonprofit. Each committee should have a volunteer leader as well as plenty of support from a designated member of your nonprofit staff. (Hint: your board also qualifies as a volunteer committee!)

Your nonprofit's advocates are volunteers in their own right, so don't forget to account for them when outlining your volunteer management strategy.

Volunteer Advocacy

You might not think advocates for your nonprofit fall into the “volunteer” role, but they do! Often the face of your mission, your advocates are out on the street raising awareness (and money) for your cause. To promote your advocacy efforts, you’ll need to provide supporters with the right resources so they can get the word out in the most effective ways.

Volunteer Management Software

What Can Volunteer Management Software Do?

Create Volunteer Profiles

Within your volunteer management system, you’ll be able to build detailed volunteer profiles to track volunteer history, interests, skills, and other important data. You can also add volunteer ratings, notes, and documents to keep the most accurate records possible—no filing cabinets needed!

Schedule Volunteer Opportunities

Get a bird’s eye view of your upcoming volunteer projects in a manageable calendar that you can easily share on your website. That way, your staff and your recruits will be on the same page for all the volunteer happenings at your organization.

Segment Your Volunteers

You can use your volunteer management software to group volunteers into categories based on relevant criteria, such as relationships, interests, or skills. Not only will finding the right volunteers be a breeze, but communicating to those segments all at once will be too!

Track Volunteer Service

From checking in your volunteers to tracking their time on the job, your volunteer management software should make it easy to keep accurate records of your volunteers’ involvement. You’ll never have to guess who was on-site or estimate how long they were there; your software will show you everything!

Boost Recruitment and Follow-Through

Volunteer management software and event platforms make it easy to reach wider audiences and improve follow-through. With access to wider networks of supporters, intuitive registration tools, automated communication, and more, organizations have seen up to 30% growth in attendance through online sign-ups alone.

What Volunteer Management Software Features Should You Look For?

Your volunteer management software should enable you to build custom forms to embed on your nonprofit website.

Custom Form-Builder

Look for a volunteer management system that lets you create custom webforms you can use for volunteer applications, registration, waivers, surveys, and more. That way, all of the volunteer data you capture online will seamlessly flow into your database.

Your volunteer management software will provide tools to streamline your volunteer communications.

Automated Communications

You’ll need to send volunteer sign-up confirmations, pre-shift reminders, and post-shift follow-ups, among other types of communications. Your volunteer software should let you schedule these in advance to save you time and ensure no volunteer misses an important message.

You can use your volunteer management software to check guests in at their volunteer shift.

Volunteer Check-In Capabilities

The best volunteer management software should allow you to use your mobile device to check volunteers in and out at their shift. Plus, your software should instantly store their shift information within their volunteer profiles. No manual data entry or time-tracking required!

Volunteer management software will show you actionable reports you can use to assess and improve your volunteer program.

Real-Time Reporting and Analytics

You can’t improve your volunteer program without first analyzing your current practices. Use your volunteer management software to run custom reports and create useful dashboards to get a real-time picture of your program’s success.

Fundraising Through Volunteer Grants

The Basics of Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grant programs are corporate philanthropy initiatives that allow eligible nonprofits to receive funding for employees’ volunteer service.

These programs (also called Dollars for Doers programs) are straightforward: after an individual volunteers at a nonprofit, they can submit a volunteer grant request to their employer, who will then provide a financial donation to the organization. 

Each company will have its own restrictions and eligibility requirements, but the most widespread limitation for volunteer grants is that many supporters simply aren’t aware the programs exist!

Using Software to Maximize Volunteer Grant Fundraising

You can use specialized software to get more from volunteer grant programs.

With a tool like Double the Donation’s database search widget, your volunteers can quickly search their employer’s name to find out everything they need to know about their company’s corporate giving programs. 

Make sure to place this tool on your volunteer sign-up page, as well as on your website’s corporate giving or Ways to Get Involved pages.

The National Kidney Foundation markets matching gifts and volunteer grants using a Double the Donation search tool.

You can also capitalize on more comprehensive software to manage the volunteer grant process from end to end.

Using a dedicated tool like 360MatchPro, you can automate all of your matching gift and volunteer grant communications to ensure all of your supporters are well-eduacted about their corporate giving opportunities.

360MatchPro allows you to quickly scan your database for email domains that align with known corporate giving programs. Then, you can schedule batch or individual outreach initiatives to help those eligible donors and volunteers submit their paperwork in time.

You can use 360MatchPro to scan your database for supporters who work for companies that offer volunteer grants.

Volunteer Management Tips for Recruitment

Use peer-to-peer outreach to recruit new volunteers.

Leverage Peer-to-Peer Marketing

To promote new opportunities, leverage your strongest assets: your existing volunteers. These supporters can speak to their experiences with your cause. Get creative by offering materials like social media post templates and eCards they can send to spread the word.

Corporate partners can be a reliable source of volunteers.

Reach Out To Corporate Partners

Especially if you have a pre-existing relationship, businesses are a great source of volunteers. Reach out to your corporate partners to line up a volunteer day or promote specific events to their employees. Chances are, they’ll come through and provide the support your cause needs.

To improve your volunteer management overall, start by optimizing your volunteer application.

Optimize Your Volunteer Application

Keep your form concise while capturing the essential volunteer data. Make sure to include an optional section that invites prospects to check off their skills and interests. That way, you’ll be able to promote opportunities that are particularly appealing to them.

Write volunteer job descriptions that are clear and compelling in order to secure the right volunteers for each opportunity.

Write Clear Volunteer Job Descriptions

Draw in recruits by crafting clear, compelling volunteer job descriptions. Explain the parameters and responsibilities for the role, but don’t forget to express how this role contributes to your nonprofit’s overall mission.

Your volunteer management software can help you identify potential volunteers during your recruitment process.

Use Your Volunteer Management System

Search for former volunteers who might be interested in future opportunities by filtering your volunteer database by engagement history or area of expertise. If you’re storing the right details, you’ll know exactly who to reach out to first.

You'll be able to recruit more volunteers by posting outreach initiatives online.

Take Your Volunteer Outreach Online

Find volunteers where they already are—online! Utilize your nonprofit’s website as well as social media, email newsletters, and other online marketing channels to promote upcoming opportunities to the widest possible audience.

You can host volunteer recruitment events as a way of connecting with prospective volunteers and educating them on your nonprofit.

Host Volunteer Recruitment Events

Start your volunteer relationships off on the right foot by hosting in-person and virtual events and info sessions. These events can offer an informal, engaging way for a potential supporter to get to know your organization’s staff and get a better idea of what opportunities you offer. Plus, tap into existing online networks and platforms to post new opportunities and engage wider audiences.

You can turn non-volunteers into volunteers by creating an effective volunteer management and recruitment plan.

Turn Non-Volunteers Into Volunteers

The best volunteers are excited about your mission and dedicated to your cause. Sound familiar? Look to your existing constituency! Your nonprofit CRM should already have donors and members on file, so reach out about volunteer opportunities you think they’d like!

Volunteer Engagement Best Practices

Prepare a thorough volunteer orientation process.

When it comes to training, treat your volunteers like you would a member of your staff. Your volunteer coordinator will need to outline a straightforward orientation process that goes over all of their responsibilities as well as your nonprofit’s mission, policies, and guidelines. You can handle this process on an individual level or conduct a group orientation once a month or at the start of a volunteer initiative.

Clearly communicate your volunteer expectations.

When volunteers know what your nonprofit wants from them, they’re much more likely to meet (and surpass!) those expectations. You’ll need to document the baseline requirements of the job (e.g., hours served to tasks completed) as well as the ideal outcomes of this volunteer position would be (e.g., amount of money raised by volunteer callers at a phonathon event).

Be present during (and after) the volunteer shift.

Don’t leave your volunteers to fend for themselves! It’s your job to maintain an active role in your volunteers’ work. During the shift, you should provide some form of supervision, especially if your volunteers are new. You’ll also want to provide volunteers with contact information so that they can reach your team outside their shift hours, too, for questions, concerns, or feedback.

Pay attention to volunteers’ preferences.

You can show volunteers that you value them by listening and responding to their needs. Use your volunteer management software to keep track of your volunteers’ preferences when it comes to types of volunteer work, scheduling, and communication channels. The more responsive you are to your volunteers, the more likely they are to respond to your opportunities, too.

How To Thank Your Volunteers

Personalized eCards

Nothing says “thank you” to your most committed supporters quite like a personalized card. With the right tools, you can send digital cards directly to your volunteers after an event without having to worry about printing or postage costs. There’s never been a more eco-friendly and efficient way to connect with your volunteers!

Backed by eCard creation tools, you can create visually-engaging cards that express your team’s gratitude. Design cards for specific events or have generic ones that fit any opportunity.

Then whenever someone volunteers, your team can choose the design they think best fits, fill out the individual’s contact information, add a personalized message, and hit send. The eCard will go directly to their inbox, and they’ll feel like their hard work didn’t go unnoticed. A token of appreciation like this can go a long way in inspiring volunteers to stick around!

As part of your volunteer management and retention strategies, create eCards to thank committed volunteers.

Volunteer Appreciation Events

If you want to go all out for your volunteers, host a volunteer appreciation event! Whether you gather in person or online, an event is a great way to bring everyone together to bond over the cause.

A volunteer party might be the way to go. Choose a theme, fun music, and complimentary refreshments. Then, bring your staff and volunteers together to mingle.

You could also have an old-fashioned potluck or a festival where staff members contribute items and volunteers bring their families. Then, your team can take time to interact and learn why they’re invested in working on your cause.

Host volunteer appreciation events as part of your volunteer management strategy.

Highlight Volunteers on Social Media

Chances are, your supporters are active on social media. Bring your appreciation efforts to the online space by featuring your volunteers. Spotlight standout volunteers regularly with a dedicated post. You might even reach out to them for a quote before publishing it.

Something as simple as posting pictures of volunteers working your events can boost retention, too. Not to mention, this can double as a recruitment tactic. When your supporters see pictures of themselves helping your cause, they might share them with their followers, adding a note about how much they enjoyed supporting your cause.

No matter your approach, double-check that your volunteers are fine with being posted on social media first.

Include social media recognition in your volunteer management approach.

Volunteer Management Resources

Best Volunteer Management Tools for Nonprofits

These volunteer management tools can improve your volunteer program.

From tracking time to storing contact data and much more, volunteer management software is vital for your volunteer program.

Find the right volunteer management tools for your nonprofit by reading our reviews of the top platforms on the market.

10 Volunteer Grant Companies You Need to Know

These volunteer grant companies can help your nonprofit raise funds through volunteer hours.

Did you know your volunteers could help your fundraising strategy too? It’s true!

With volunteer grants, you can earn money for each hour your supporters volunteer. Check out the top volunteer grant companies and learn more in this post from 360MatchPro.