If you want success tracking volunteer prospects, retention — or anything else, you need one of these

Volunteer Management Systems - Twenty HatsIf you are an experienced volunteer engagement professional with a solid infrastructure and sound practices in tracking your program, you may not need to read this post.  Feel free to click out – although I’d love your feedback

And if you are newer to the volunteer management world, keep reading.  We’re talking this week about something straightforward and essential for any well-run volunteer program.

Having a database.

The subject came to mind last week when I facilitated a roundtable for Volunteer Alexandria on volunteer retention.

This particular group was great because they had such a strong grasp of the two sides to volunteer management: relationship-building and the need for systems.

We spent a lot of time discussing the fun part of our work − interacting with volunteers and recognizing their value – and just as much time discussing the equally important but less exciting subject of volunteer management systems (VMS).

That’s because having a system is necessary if you want to lead and grow a successful volunteer program.

That’s because the VMS is the keeper of your data, and data is a volunteer manager’s best friend.

Tracking data:

  • Helps you see patterns in your volunteer inquiries so you know when to ramp up your marketing.
  • Shows you how many applicants become active volunteers so you know how often to train.
  • Tells you how you are doing with retention: how many volunteers fulfill their initial commitment and stick around to contribute their talents year after year.

Having a VMS helps you plan, make decisions, and spend less time reinventing the wheel. It just plain makes your job easier.

The challenge comes when you work for a nonprofit that hasn’t yet made this investment. If you are really small you can probably manage with a spreadsheet.  I have a Volunteer Onboarding Tracker that’s free to download and gets you started with tracking the various benchmarks.

But at some point as your program expands you are going to need a VMS to keep pace with the growth.

When you reach that point, don’t wait for your boss to notice how stressed out you are making do with unwieldy spreadsheets.  Step forward and strategize how you will get the green light to purchase the software.

It’s the manager in you who will use the VMS and track the info, and the leader in you who will ensure that you have this tool in the first place.


Does your nonprofit need to invest more in your volunteer program?  My Achieving Buy-In webinar walks you through six principles to help you advocate for what you need.

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