Great Expectations: Communication Tips for Volunteer Coordinators

As a volunteer coordinator, you have expectations of your volunteers. You expect they arrive on time for their shifts, act respectfully to other volunteers and participants, and perform their jobs well. Although we may lose sight of this from time to time, volunteers also have expectations of volunteer coordinators!

Although volunteer coordinating comes in many different (and equally fabulous) styles, one thing separates a good coordinator from a great coordinator: effective communication. Of course, communication comes in many different styles as well. And, in the last decade, technology has facilitated countless new channels of communication – emails, texts, DM’s, and more.

Volunteers expect you to uphold timely, informative communication.

No one likes to feel in the dark or out of the loop, so keep your volunteers informed! Volunteers need to know what to expect, what to prepare for, and what to deliver on at every step in their volunteer journey – at least in the beginning. Offer guidance to your volunteers at every stage, and they’ll feel safe and confident in their new role in the organization.

Make sure you use the appropriate communication channels, too.

As technology has woven itself into our social fabric, we’ve all adopted certain assumptions and expectations of various digital communication channels. For volunteer coordinators, here are some quick guidelines…

Email: Unless you observe push-back from younger volunteers (Millennials and Gen Z), use email communication as much as possible. This establishes a professional tone. An extra handy tip – in VolunteerLocal, you can automate confirmation emails, schedule reminder emails, and send broadcast emails to volunteers in an entire event, or even a specific shift in the event. Of course, attach documents, links, or pictures if you like, too!

Phone Calls: This is a great way to touch base with your volunteers, especially with new updates/news. There are some things to be aware of though!

  • The younger the volunteer base, the less comfortable they often are with phone calls (especially from unknown numbers). The older the volunteer base, the more comfortable they are with a phone call.
  • You may hope that the phone call is brief, but some folks like to chat! Make sure you keep track of the time so you don’t suddenly find yourself an hour behind schedule.
  • A phone call is not a written record. Sometimes it’s helpful to have important information in writing so it may be reviewed later.

Text: Considering that text messages are widely accepted as an informal mode of communication, remember to keep your texts professional. Texts might be helpful for sudden updates/announcements. Another handy tip – VolunteerLocal also allows you to send texts to volunteers, without leaving the platform. Sudden thunderstorm? Tell your volunteers to seek shelter, stat!

Although you may want to give your communication style and channels some thought in the beginning, it usually becomes very natural once you’ve established a system for communicating with your volunteers. Your volunteers will sincerely appreciate the effort, too. With consistent, informative communication, they’ll be well prepared and ready to volunteer! Remember, VolunteerLocal has a whole tool belt to help you pull this off. Never leave a volunteer hanging – jump in with immediate, scheduled, or automatic emails and texts, whenever you need.

Rebekah Coenen

Rebekah Coenen is a staff writer at VolunteerLocal. She loves Ultimate Frisbee, crafting, and brewing beer.