Workshop teaches proper volunteer management

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — U.S. Department of Labor statistics say 43 percent of people become volunteers simply because someone asked for help. Area nonprofit groups are paying attention to that.

About 25 representatives of 15 area nonprofit groups gathered at Vincennes University Jasper Campus on Wednesday to learn how to effectively manage volunteers.

Managing volunteers means recruiting the right people, getting them doing the right tasks, keeping them happy and constantly evaluating how the system is working. A mismanaged volunteer is an unhappy volunteer who then tells his friends not to contribute to that organization, according to June Miller, the director for the Indiana Nonprofit Resource Network’s southern region.

“We have to pay attention to what the volunteers need and want so that we can help them do the best job they can, feel satisfied in their efforts and return to volunteer another day,” she said. “In many ways, volunteers need to be considered in the same way paid employees are by organizations.”

Tri-Cap’s Volunteer Dubois County program hosted the Keys to Volunteer Management workshop in coordination with the Huntingburg Foundation’s Better Together Initiative, a meeting of nonprofits to network and discuss issues that took place in August.

“This workshop ties in with the mission of Volunteer Dubois County because one of the core functions of a volunteer center is to build the capacity of nonprofit or public service organizations by providing relevant resources, support and professional development opportunities,” Tri-Cap’s volunteer coordinator Paige Stradtner said.

The foundation provided Tri-Cap a $2,000 resource grant for the workshop.

“This gave the volunteer center the opportunity to provide a different array of services to the nonprofit sector,” the foundation’s executive director, Brad Ward, said. “They want to be more than a volunteer clearinghouse. They want to be able to provide services.”

Volunteers are essential to many nonprofit organizations, and provide billions of dollars’ worth of manpower nationwide each year, Stradtner said. Knowing how to use that resource effectively is vital.

 Tri-Cap brought in Miller, who has more than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit training field.
“Nonprofit organizations, at least the highest percentage of them, operate on a shoestring budget,” she said. “Nonprofits have to depend on dedicated volunteers in many areas to help them fulfill their mission.”

Sister Karen Durliat, director of the Guadalupe Center in Huntingburg, attended the workshop. She said she picked up several tips, like simply asking volunteers to help or about what they need and want.

“I also liked the idea of the ‘Law of the Harvest,’” she said. “You can’t just put your new tools and seeds away and expect anything to happen. Plant something, fertilize it, keep watering it. With perseverance there will be a harvest.”

Volunteers need to be handled in a similar way, Stradtner said.

“I think I or any of the attendees have come away from this workshop with a greater understanding that there is more to volunteer management than just recruit a volunteer, put them to work and that’s that,” she said.

Stradtner said Volunteer Dubois County plans to continue hosting such workshops if it finds funding beyond federal stimulus funds that expire at the end of this month.

“It’s not only good to learn something new to make your organization better, it affords an opportunity to connect with other agencies to find ways to collaborate with each other in new ways,” Sr. Karen said.

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