Managing Mandated Volunteers

What’s the different between managing volunteers who want to be there and those who have to be there?

Volunteers, by definition, should voluntarily be giving their time to your organization. But when community service is made a requirement, some people who are contributing to your organization by mandate might come with different attitudes or expectations. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Challenge your assumptions about mandated volunteer attitudes: Once upon a time, a college student (me) got a speeding ticket (whoops!) and decided to go to court because she didn’t have the cash flow to pay her fine. She ended up with some mandated community service, which she welcomed because she actually liked to volunteer, and served her time with Habitat for Humanity. 

I might not have made the time to sign up for that build if it wasn’t required, and found it much more rewarding than asking my mom for money to cover a speeding ticket. Some high school and college programs also mandate service. Don’t assume that everyone coming through these programs will have a bad attitude about volunteering, or won’t put in the effort. 

Don’t skip their orientation: Mandated volunteers might need a little extra information about your organization, and how volunteers impact your mission. If you have a busy schedule, it’s easy to dismiss these individuals or groups because you think they won’t be returning or don’t see the purpose in investing precious time into their training. But by providing context, you may be better able to engage the volunteers. If you have a testimonial from someone else who has been through their program about how the volunteer activity created a meaningful experience for them, pop that into your standard PowerPoint to make a deeper connection. 

Try tracking your mandated volunteers: If you want to keep track of trends or hours for mandated service versus other volunteers, you might consider using the VolunteerLocal volunteer information field to create a special question that asks whether a volunteer is from a certain organization, or volunteering to fulfill a requirement. You could gain interesting data about the contributions mandatory volunteers make to your organization, and whether they return after their required period.

In a perfect world, each of your volunteers would come to you because of their deep commitment to your organization. But regardless of the reasoning, volunteers (mandated or not) are giving their time to you for free, and have the opportunity to become long-term volunteers if you put in the time up-front.

Brianne Sanchez

Brianne Sanchez is a staff writer at VolunteerLocal. She loves bikes, crafts and a good book.