Set Up for Success: Making the Most of Your Volunteers

Provide opportunities for different skills and engagement levels to take advantage of all your potential volunteers, and make sure all your goals are quality goals.


Volunteer forces are the competitive advantage that associations have against their for-profit competitors. They’re what makes us unique and they drive what we can accomplish. The opportunities we provide for volunteers and the way we utilize them is the key to our success.

While it’s great to have big audacious goals to work toward, your volunteers to succeed. Put them in positions to do that by breaking up the big goal into achievable chunks. Start small, be realistic about what can be accomplished and make sure the goals for your volunteers are clear. This will:

  • keep everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction;
  • ensure volunteer tasks have a positive impact on the organization; and
  • match up the right volunteers, with the right skills, to the right tasks.

If the final goal is clear, you can avoid feeling like you must be specific on the “how” the goal is accomplished. Volunteers can come up with some great ideas when given some leeway, but only if you properly communicate the desired outcome.

Remember volunteer time is valuable, so don’t bog them down with “busy” work. Don’t have meetings just to have a meeting. When meetings are needed, it’s important to be clear what the takeaways will be.

When working with volunteers, it’s also important never to forget they are, in fact, volunteers. On the best day, your association will be their third priority behind family and work. But when managed properly, motivated and empowered to promote the association’s goals, they will be the drivers of success.  

Learn more about making the most of your volunteer “workforce” with this RGI webinar on volunteer management.