Skip to main content

News / Articles

Supervising Volunteers

Rhonda DeBough, Sholom Home Volunteer Coordinator

My superpower is that I know how to get people to work for FREE!

I love supervising volunteers. Giving people an opportunity to do something they want to do and helping them to succeed. It is a very respectful way to interact in a supervisor/supervisee role. It has to be. If I’m not respectful, the volunteers will walk. On the other hand, I can’t get walked all over as well, or the program’s goals/mission is at stake. This is a two way street. A contract. I have a task that needs to be done, the volunteer has a motivator, which is my responsibility to find out through good initial screening; application/interview however formal or informal is warranted, depending on the opportunity.

Unless you are a fan of having difficult conversations with volunteers, the very base of good supervision is a position description and policies, I also have a protocol document for items that are more fluid and I don’t want to have to change policies. These documents are their part of the contract. They spell out exactly what their role is and isn’t. I have my volunteers review and sign these documents annually.

On the flip side, I do an annual performance evaluation with each volunteer. During these conversations, I can make sure I am hitting my mark on their motivation, my part of the contract. It also serves as a two way conversation on challenges/performance issues. When you have a conversation with them, they have opportunity to be a part of the solution thus their chances of succeeding are higher. A bonus of this performance evaluation is that I get to tell them all the good work they have done. (Nice recognition/retention activity.) I find that volunteers really enjoy these meetings. They look forward to them. I am showing them that they are an important part of the organization and worth my time one on one.

If a volunteer isn’t working out, this meeting is an opportunity for us to discuss challenges and typically they come to that realization themselves. I work hard to give them a dignified out.

We’ve all had supervisors who aren’t great at supervising. They don’t take the time or have the interest or skillset they need to help us to succeed. People don’t quit jobs, they quit supervisors. That is why it is key for us, as supervisors of volunteers, to have this skill down.

If I were the queen, I would make every supervisor treat their supervisee like a volunteer.