There are many reasons why you might find yourself reading this article now. It could be that your previous volunteer coordinator moved away, leaving an empty seat at the team table. Or, perhaps your nonprofit has never hired a volunteer coordinator before and is now in a position to make that advancement.
Whatever the reason, there will be certain qualities and qualifications to look out for as you begin interacting with applicants. Let’s break it down.
What’s their “why”?
We’ve all heard this question in interviews: “Why are you applying for this position?” True, the question is an old one. However, in mission-driven work, it’s critical to understand a volunteer coordinator’s “why”.
There is no right answer, but at the very minimum, the position must mean more than a paycheck. For example, maybe they thrive in fast-paced work settings, or they love organizing groups of people to make a difference.
Volunteer management is hard work, and if there isn’t a value-packed reason why the person is showing up to work every day…they may one day not show up. Ask around, and I’m sure someone on your team will have some kind of insight into volunteer coordinator burnout. Which reminds me – once you find the perfect fit for the role, do your best to support and appreciate their work.
A volunteer coordinator will be in constant communication. The role requires close collaboration with the rest of the team, as well as with the volunteer base.
When interviewing an applicant, pay attention to how the conversation flows. Do they seem to follow the conversation easily, understanding your questions and engaging with them? Can you easily understand the heart of what they are saying when they speak with you? How personable do they seem? (We’ll get to that in just a moment.)
This is important because your team will need to convey short term and long term goals to the volunteer coordinator. Then, the volunteer coordinator will need to efficiently communicate those goals to the volunteers, synthesized through meaningful tasks, projects, and volunteer roles.
If an applicant has experience in teaching, tutoring, coaching, or some other kind of instruction, that is a great sign of their communication skills. Remember – their experiences in previous, seemingly unrelated jobs are relevant as long as they gained transferable skills from those experiences.
An authentic, inviting personality
We all want to work with a team of complementary personalities – hello amazing work banter! But in some positions, an amiable personality goes a longer way than in other positions.
Think of it this way – a volunteer donates their time and effort into furthering your cause. Volunteers are motivated by the joy of the work and the collective impact of volunteer efforts. Volunteers who are intrinsically motivated will be very much turned off by an unpleasant coordinator.
Personality traits to be cautious of include passive aggressiveness, a quick temper, inconsistency between what they say and what they do, and tendencies toward blame rather than accountability.
It can be difficult to spot any of these qualities during an interview, when they are (hopefully) at their most behaved. This is where references come in handy. As previous employers how this person behaved under pressure or in stressful environments.
On the flip side, look for strengths and skills that shine through in their personality. Are they welcoming and understanding, yet firm when needed? How well do they listen?
All this said, give your volunteer coordinator room to have an authentic personality – their own, beautiful, unique magic! Speaking from experience, I’ve personally continued volunteering at organizations much longer than intended, just because my volunteer coordinator was the glowing sun personified.
A volunteer coordinator can be perfect in every way, but if they are not organized, they might soon be overwhelmed by the commotion of the job.
Generally, volunteer coordinators are responsible for creating programs for volunteers, recruiting volunteers, orientation schedules, applicant tracking, shift scheduling, on-site leadership, and more.
With so many moving parts to the job, it’s important to look for signs of orderliness in behaviors. Do they keep a personal calendar? Do they show up promptly and on-time when expected? How are their email exchanges – sporadic or reliable? What is their familiarity with basic data management (not necessarily a requirement, but a huge perk!). Do they enjoy multi-tasking, or do they prefer to focus on one priority at a time? (There are no right answers to that question, but pay attention to their reasoning behind their answer.)
As mentioned before, volunteer coordinators are a critical team member of any growing, volunteer-powered nonprofit. Pull all the stops to keep them happy, well supported, and doing their best work. Sometimes, that means giving them the right tools and resources (and coffee…don’t forget the coffee).
So, full disclosure, this is where I recommend VolunteerLocal for easy, intuitive, organized volunteer management. For the peace of my own conscience, I should explain that my recommendation is more than just a plug.
At VolunteerLocal, we work with numerous clients transitioning from mega-monster spreadsheets and folders to our streamlined, web-based platform. My recommendation stems from the favorite part of my job – when I hear a volunteer coordinator’s sigh of relief (followed fast by celebration). Request a free 1:1 demo any time you like. We’ll be glad to share the magic with your team.
There are many other qualities you might be looking for in a new team member, but these four are what many organizations consider “core” to the new volunteer coordinator’s success in the role. I wish you the very best of luck finding that new team member. They’re sure to be a dynamic addition to the organization.