Volunteer Management Tips

A 2004 study conducted by the Urban Institute identified three volunteer management practices that had the most positive influence on retaining of volunteers:

  1. Recognition activities
  2. Training and professional development for volunteers
  3. Screening volunteers to match them with appropriate tasks

Interestingly, a negative influence on volunteer retention in the same study was supervision and communication with volunteers. This is not to say that these practices should be reduced or stopped, but it is worth noting that an organization “may supervise and communicate in a way that volunteer experiences feel too much like the grind of their daily jobs rather than an enjoyable avocation, thereby diminishing the experience for volunteers and reducing their desire to continue volunteering.”

Once you have volunteers committed to working projects for ACUI’s programs and services at any level, here are some suggestions for creative ways to keep them involved and excited to do good work on their tasks.


If you don't have happy volunteers who feel appreciated, they aren't likely to do a good job and be engaged in the process.

  • Send handwritten notes or postcards to volunteers thanking them for their work.
  • Foster an environment where all leadership (staff, volunteer supervisors, peers, etc.) feel a responsibility to thank and/or recognize a job well done.
  • Designate opportunities during meetings or events to acknowledge volunteer performance.
  • Utilize social media to post pictures or shout outs related to the work of your team.
  • Nominate active volunteers for an award and/or scholarship at the regional or international level.
  • Reach out to supervisors of volunteers to thank them for allowing their employees to be involved and let them know their employees are representing their institution well.
  • Develop a structure for providing gifts to volunteers who have fulfilled particular roles.
  • Track consistently the volunteers who are completing tasks so that they can be appropriately recognized, and to reduce the potential of leaving someone out.

Training and Support

To ensure that volunteers feel equipped to complete fulfill the responsibilities of their position, there are a variety of systems in place related to training and support for all ACUI volunteers.

  • Upon selection, all volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in ACUI 101 for Volunteers, which provides an orientation to the association as a foundation for their work.
  • All position descriptions for ACUI volunteers have identified: who that volunteer reports to (i.e., "volunteer supervisor") and who in the Central Office is designated to support them (i.e., "staff liaison"). In some cases, the volunteer supervisor and staff liaison are the same person.
  • Volunteer supervisors are charged with managing the projects and performance of the volunteers to provide direction and make progress towards completing the responsibilities outline in a volunteers position description.
  • Staff liaisons are charged will providing position-specific support to volunteers, ensuring that resources and information related to ACUI policies, procedures, and other related guidelines and expectations are met.
  • Position-specific training will be provided to all volunteers. Depending on the position, this could be a specific scheduled training session, or this could be through the ongoing sharing of resources and information during the recurring meetings.
All volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their volunteer supervisor and/or their staff liaison if they have any questions during their term. Likewise, feedback about the volunteer experience can be submitted to members of the Volunteer Development Team.

Matching Volunteers with Tasks

For volunteers with defined terms and position descriptions, project assignments will be determined by the volunteer supervisor through the application and selection process, as well as through ongoing communication during the volunteer experience. Likewise, episodic volunteer opportunities exist in a variety of ways across all levels of the Association, and it is through these short-term contributions that individuals can make direct impacts on areas in which they are interested.

The best way to contribute your talents and align your interests to a particular area of ACUI is the apply for a volunteer role that is consistent with these skills and motivations. There are four main application windows available throughout there, which you can learn more about at www.acui.org/volunteer

Updated Aug. 11, 2015