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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Identifying a Volunteer’s Niche

Not every job is a perfect fit for every volunteer–which is simultaneously your biggest challenge and greatest advantage when building a volunteer team. 

Volunteering is volunteering is volunteering, right? No, of course not! Every job, duty, and responsibility is different, just like every person who volunteers is different. The trick is finding the right people for the job. When people are working in their sweet spot, they tend to work to their strengths, have a better experience, and stick around in the future. As a volunteer coordinator, that’s a win-win-win! 



If you know you have jobs to fill that require a certain skill-set, start by actively recruiting people who would be the best fit. Will you need a medical tent at your festival? Reach out to the local medical school or nursing program to see if they can help connect you with volunteers. Want a group of cheerleaders to encourage runners over the finish line? Contact the local high school to help promote the opportunity to enthusiastic high schoolers or even the cheerleaders themselves in need of volunteer hours. Having a defined role and clear need will make it easier for you to know what type of person to pursue. 



Sometimes a volunteer will have a talent, skill, or trait that is not immediately obvious. Maybe that mom who just wants to help the cause currently selling tickets used to be in a band and is great at local promotion. Or maybe the person providing you with pro-bono legal advice is a skilled photographer on the side. Regardless of the age or background of the volunteer, they probably have some sort of hidden talent, so ask them about it! Whether it’s a question you ask when you’re first introduced or it’s an open field on their volunteer registration form–ask volunteers what other skills or interests they might have. Sometimes you may be amazed to find it’s just what you’ve been looking for. You might not need everyone’s extra skills all at once though, so it’s nice to build a document that lists the variety of skills represented all in one place. That way, when the opportunity arises, you know who to call.



After the job has been fulfilled, be honest–was it the right fit? Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll have someone who feels their strength is in one area when it isn’t right for your team yet or maybe they were just in the wrong role all together. That doesn’t necessarily make them a bad volunteer–it might just mean pivoting to a different position in the future. Of course, you’re also going to have dirty or less glamorous jobs that need to be filled. Sometimes that means getting creative and sometimes that means divvying up the fun and not-so-fun jobs on a rotating basis. Assess what works best through surveys or follow-up meetings with volunteers when possible to let them share their thoughts as well. Maybe you thought they were a perfect fit in the kids craft tent, but they would rather have a break from kids and sell merch instead. Realizing that you will have to continue to hone in on where a volunteer fits best will help foster a healthy and strong team of volunteers committed to their roles. 


Now that you’ve got the plan for how to do it–go fill those jobs with the right volunteers! Both you and the volunteers will surely be happier for it. 


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