Volunteer coordinators recruit, train and supervise volunteers. They ensure
that the volunteers contribute to the organization's overall mandate and goals.
"Shaping a shared vision and mission, matching volunteer talents with satisfying
assignments, guiding volunteers to success and building leadership within
the volunteer corps" is how the Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA)
defines the job.
Most volunteer coordinators work for nonprofit organizations or charities.
These can include social service agencies, arts organizations and advocacy
Others work in the public sector or in health care.
When the AVA began in 1960, there weren't too many training options for
volunteer coordinators, says Katie Campbell. She is the former executive director
of the AVA.
"There were really no books, no conferences, no courses, no places where
you could go to learn the job. When I first got into it in the early 1970s,
everybody was sort of flying by the seat of their pants."
Today, there are dozens of related books, websites, networking groups and
conferences. These allow volunteer coordinators to share ideas. They can develop
standard procedures and techniques.
Ruth Mackenzie is the senior program manager for a national organization
that promotes volunteerism. She says coordinators need to stay on top of changing
trends. There might be increasing competition for volunteers. People might
decide to volunteer for different reasons. People also may start looking for
a new kind of volunteer work.
Mackenzie notes that volunteer coordinators have to find new ways to recruit
volunteers. They need to offer volunteers a chance to develop some skills.
Coordinators must also be flexible, since people don't always have time to
give. It's also important to find new kinds of work for volunteers to do.
Making volunteers feel appreciated is just as crucial as recruiting them.
That's according to Jordi Valdes. He has served as a volunteer coordinator
for music and film festivals.
"Volunteers have a lot of other things going on in their lives and are
giving of their extra time," he points out. "It is extremely important for
an organization or coordinator to ensure they know that you care and are not
just trying to fill positions with bodies."
Coordinators need to understand what makes people tick. They must also
see their work in the broader scheme of things. "In the old days," says Campbell,
"we were really focused on basic management tasks: recruiting, supervising,
"Now we realize there are a bunch of other targeted skills we need to know."
Those targeted skills include learning how to build partnerships and how
to work with the media.
"You need to be a people person," says Valdes. "Have compassion, patience,
good communication skills as well as computer skills -- since most of your
information goes into databases -- good phone skills and good public speaking
Above all, volunteer coordinators must be committed to the cause.
"You have to basically be an optimistic person," says Campbell. "People
only work out of optimism, and you can't fake that. You have to be passionate
and enthusiastic about the potential of people to contribute."
"The best part of doing this job is the different people you get to meet
and interact with," says Valdes. "People from all walks of life, all races
and all ages."
Mackenzie says that people with disabilities could do this job, so long
as they are available to work at different hours. Overtime is not generally
required, but there is some evening and weekend work. "The key word is 'flexible,'"
says Mackenzie. "This is still generally a daytime job."