Guest blogger Laura Rundell shares her super-practical tips for conducting volunteer performance reviews that are worth the effort
There has been lots of discussion as a profession about how managing volunteers differs from managing paid staff. That could really be a topic for another conversation entirely. In order to manage your corps of volunteers effectively, I would argue that, just as we do for paid staff, volunteers need some formal performance review or evaluation process.
You may be wondering, though:
Why should I add one more item to my already overflowing plate?
Most volunteer managers don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands to take on one more task. However, conducting a formal evaluation meeting with volunteers helps achieve the following goals:
• It helps to ensure that the placement is a good fit for the staff and volunteer. There may be some volunteers who are reliable and consistent, but may benefit from a change in assignment. An annual review is a good time to assess their current placement.
• It lets volunteers know that they are accountable for meeting the expectations of the program and the assignment.
• It provides a formal opportunity for volunteers to share how they are feeling about their assignment and the volunteer program.
• It lets staff know that you take the placement and supervision of volunteers seriously and gives them an opportunity to address any performance issues.
• It helps to strengthen the volunteer program. In conducting these reviews, I have gotten many great ideas that were low-cost and easy to implement.
• It helps document the success of the program. I always like to ask volunteers how they feel they have had an impact at our agency and how volunteering has had an impact on them.
How can you make these review sessions comfortable and productive for both staff and volunteers?
• Prior to placing a new volunteer, your agency’s expectations should be clear. Job descriptions should also have clear expectations for their specific assignment.
• Decide as a team if you will conduct these meetings or if it will be done by the staff to whom the volunteers directly report.
• Let volunteers know ahead of time that this meeting is part of your efforts to provide a rewarding experience.
• If a volunteer is not meeting expectations, provide clear and direct, but kind, feedback. Just as you would for paid staff, give them the opportunity to respond to this feedback and ask if there is additional support they need to help them succeed in their role.
• Provide some open ended questions that allow volunteers to give your agency feedback on their specific assignment and the volunteer program.
• Make sure to follow up after the review. If a volunteer is not meeting expectations, set a time to check back in on their progress. If they provided a helpful idea, let them know that you listened to the idea and followed up on it. If it wasn’t feasible for some reason, let them know why.
LET’S HEAR FROM YOU….does your agency do performance reviews with volunteers? If so, leave a comment and let us know if reviews are a helpful practice or just another item on your to-do list.
Laura Rundell, CVA received her BA in Political Science from Earlham College. She spent five years working in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives before leaving to pursue her Masters degree from Northeastern University. She completed her certification in volunteer administration in 2013. Lauraran the volunteer program at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA which received a citation from the Mayor in honor of the volunteers’ contributions to the community.
In 2013, Laura relocated to Connecticut where she works as Volunteer Coordinator for LifeBridge Community Services in Bridgeport, CT.