Strategies & Tools for Volunteer Programs of All Sizes

Behind any team of volunteers are strategies and tools that help keep things running smoothly on a daily basis. Volunteer coordinators have a lot on their plates already, which is why tools and strategies can be so valuable; they streamline the complicated and organize the disorderly. With the right tools, volunteer coordinators can save time, keep their volunteers happy, and even grow their volunteer base. Take a look at our list of resources that volunteer programs of all sizes could use to stay coordinated.

Small volunteer programs (little to no budget, a few volunteers):

If your program only has a handful of volunteers, you will likely be able to manage them all with a simple set of tools and strategies. Priorities include easy communication, team accountability, and vision.


  • Weekly meetings: with small teams, it is more feasible to block off a time in everyone’s calendar for a team meeting. These meetings ensure that the team is moving forward in-step with each other, feeling positive about the time they’re contributing to the organization, and have a close connection with leadership.
  • Goal-setting: in a smaller team, more responsibility falls on each volunteer’s shoulders. It can be easy to get carried away in the day-to-day work and lose sight of bigger, long-term goals. Establish a practice of goal-setting (and check-ins) to better ensure progress on important initiatives.


  • Google Forms: This is a free tool that can be used in a variety of ways. Use it to report monthly progress, accept new volunteer applications, or even propose new projects for the team.
  • Google Drive: Another free resource! Share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with your team, all in one shared workspace.
  • GroupMe: You can use this free app as a way to quickly text your group of volunteers. This app is most effective with small teams.

Medium volunteer programs (limited budget, >20 regular volunteers)


  • Track Hours: Medium and large sized volunteer programs benefit greatly from tracking hours. For nonprofit organizations especially, these hours can earn your organization donations, grants, and community recognition (which can lead to more support).
  • Volunteer Orientations: At this level, it becomes more difficult to have a close relationship with each volunteer individually. Therefore, it’s important to introduce volunteer orientations or “welcome sessions” in order to introduce yourself, share any needed information, and set the right tone.
  • Volunteer Check-Ins: schedule 15-minute check-ins with as many volunteers as possible. Grow a connection with each volunteer, and learn what they are enjoining (or not enjoying) about their position. This is an investment in long-lasting, quality volunteer relationships. Check-ins can be on the phone, on Zoom, or in person.


  • Trello: This free web tool allows teams to track progress on collaborative projects, assign deadlines, and trigger email notifications. For volunteer coordinators, this is a great way to monitor progress from a bird’s eye view.
  • Slack: This is a channel that allows co-workers to communicate throughout the day, facilitating virtual co-working. Use “channels” to organize group communications by topic.
  • Zoom: This is another free tool that facilitates virtual 1:1 and group meetings.
  • Email Marketing: There are many free and paid tools for email marketing, such as MailChimp and MailerLite. Keep in touch with volunteers with announcements, accomplishments, and calls for community support.
  • VolunteerLocal: (We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention!) Seamlessly schedule volunteers, send out regular email and text communications, track hours, and pull customized reports on your volunteer base. This is an easy, powerful tool for volunteer scheduling and management.

Large volunteer programs: (established budget, >150 regular volunteers)


  • Continuing to track hours and hold volunteer orientations.
  • Leadership Roles: It is much more difficult to maintain close relationships with individual volunteers when there are so many! Although this is a good problem to have, it is important that strong leadership and positive relationships with leadership are sustained. Consider delegating some leadership responsibilities to volunteers who have been serving for many years, or who are otherwise trusted.
  • Toss Out Pen and Paper: At this point, it is critical to move your volunteer management and organization online. If volunteer records and hours are only on paper, your program will be vulnerable to loss of information and inefficient systems.
  • Celebrate Volunteer Accomplishments: although this can (and should!) be done with programs of any size, it is particularly rewarding with large volunteer programs. Track volunteer impact and celebrate it together as a means to show gratitude for the work volunteers have accomplished. Ensure that volunteers feel appreciated for the work they do!


  • Cloud Storage: You might use tools like OneDrive, Google Cloud, or DropBox to store all of your important documents online. This will help you better organize your information, find it more quickly, and reduce vulnerability to loss of information.
  • Volunteer Swag: Make a volunteer feel like part of the family by giving them a volunteer t-shirt (or other apparel), phone case, or gift somehow related to your organization.
  • VolunteerLocal: Again, our platform helps with volunteer management of teams of all sizes. At its core, VolunteerLocal supports volunteer scheduling, communication, tracking, and reporting. However, there are many other tools that assist large teams, such as: volunteer certificates, leader/captain access, credit card processing, and more. 

Of course, there are some strategies and tools you might gleam from various of these lists. What is important is that you find the right tools and strategies to suit you and your volunteers.

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Your Needs Unmet – How to Meet Them with VolunteerLocal

Before I started blogging for VolunteerLocal, I started using VolunteerLocal. At first, I was working at a small nonprofit that occasionally hosted little volunteer opportunities. I used the free version of the platform, and it helped me manage my little signups simply. When I moved to a role at a University became responsible for events that necessitated hundreds of volunteers, I knew exactly which platform I wanted to use to protect my sanity and make signing up a breeze for the volunteers. (Any guesses?) That’s right: I created a new VolunteerLocal account and upgraded to a paid version of the platform that I continue to build into my annual budget at work.

The VolunteerLocal platform meets my (every-evolving) needs year after year, and it will meet yours if you:  



Need an easy way for volunteers to sign up for specific shifts and jobs. Volunteers love not having to create a log-in with a password they will constantly forget. With VolunteerLocal, they can sign up using whatever e-mail address is most convenient for them, and they receive a confirmation message automatically. Volunteers (and volunteer managers) can see exactly how many spots are open for any given shift and job. 



Need a dashboard to track your progress. Customize your VolunteerLocal login so you can get a quick snapshot of how many shifts remain open, how many are filled and how many unique and overall volunteers you have participating in your event. It even gives you a countdown of days until the event, if you want! This is a great motivator or nerve-calmer, depending on how recruitment is going. 



Need to collect volunteer T-shirt sizes. No need to guess at sizes for volunteers and accidentally over-order a batch of XXLs. The ability to customize signup information eliminates the need to track down volunteers and individually request their size, mobile phone number, or any specialized info that you need, like whether they’re with a certain company or over the age of 13. You can build it all in, and keep it constant or change it up and make it unique for any event.  



Need an easy way to communicate with volunteers. Paid VolunteerLocal accounts allow you to send mass messages through the platform to your whole volunteer team, or customize instructions and follow-up per job. 

Need an easy way for volunteers to cancel their shifts. If you don’t want to deal with e-mails and voicemail excuses, you can allow volunteers to cancel or swap shifts. Or, if you’re like me, you can turn that function off. Social sharing is also an option, if you want your volunteers to be able to tweet out or post to Facebook about their shifts and help you with your marketing efforts. 

Need a simple day-of sign in. You can easily export your volunteer lists and data as a spreadsheet. Again, you can so this en masse for the whole group, or export batches for specific job sign-ins. You can also use the platform to check in volunteers electronically on the Grow Plan.  

Need a way to store your annual volunteer data. I like to archive my events in VolunteerLocal after they’ve happened, and then at the end of the year, I take them out of archive and collectively export the data to get a big picture of who has volunteered and how often/long. I’ll also pull a past event out of archive if I want to make volunteer staffing plans based on the previous year’s successes and challenges. 



Need other people to be able to manage different events. With various paid VolunteerLocal accounts, you can have multiple administrators who can access only the events and information you give them permission to control. This is great if you’re working with student clubs and want to give access to student leaders, but only for the organizations they oversee. 



Need an assistant. What volunteer coordinator wouldn’t like an assistant to help with busywork and data? VolunteerLocal is like a virtual assistant that can pull reports for you faster than you can grab yourself a cup of coffee. Plus, it never takes a vacation day! 



Need to talk to a person if you’re stuck. VolunteerLocal has amazing customer service. They have been a phone call or e-mail away when I’ve had rare issues, and give me pointers on shortcuts and tricks that make using the platform even more fun.


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