A day in the life: Volunteer manager

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It's hard to know what a job is really like until you actually do it. And with an increasing number of job titles and roles emerging in the sector, it's sometimes unclear what people do each day in their particular role. What skills do they use most often and how do they spend their time? What are the biggest challenges in their work? And what would they do differently to prepare for such a position, knowing what they know now? CharityVillage®'s A Day in the Life series gives you a glimpse into the professional lives of people working in a range of jobs in the nonprofit sector.

This month we'd like to introduce you to.....

Name: Lisa Anderson

Organization: North York Harvest Food Bank

Size: 24 staff (6 full time and 18 part time) and 100 core volunteers

Job title: Manager, Volunteer Services

Education: Bachelor of Social Work, Fundamentals in the Management of Volunteers

Previous jobs and related activity: Special Events Assistant, Employee Assistance Program Counsellor

Key responsibilities: Manage the volunteer services program to retain reliable, responsible, skilled and satisfied volunteers. Promote health and safety (with other staff) to create a healthy environment for all staff and volunteers to work safely.


9:00 a.m. Check and reply to emails and voicemail messages.
10:00 a.m. Meet with colleagues (issues related to current volunteers & volunteer resources for upcoming events).
10:30 a.m. Check-in with new volunteers and volunteers who wish to see me. Contact core volunteers who are absent.
11:15 a.m. Interview potential volunteers. Update the volunteer database.
12:30 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. Check and reply to emails and voicemail messages.
1:30 p.m. Recruit volunteers for existing and new volunteer positions. Plan volunteer resources for upcoming events.
3:00 p.m. Respond to volunteers’ requests for confirmation and reference letters. Work on written reports regarding volunteer management and/or special projects.
4:15 p.m. Check and reply to emails and voicemail messages. Confirm schedule for next day.

I spend most of my time... Developing and maintaining relationships with volunteers and encouraging staff to build and strengthen their relationships with volunteers.

Three common challenges:

I work part time (28 hours per week), like many who work with nonprofit organizations. Currently I work with 23 staff and 100 volunteers. At times, I feel that I do not have enough time to complete all the work that needs to get done!

Most of the work at our food bank is completed Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. We have three programs that require volunteer assistance during the evenings and weekends. Depending on what skills are required, it can be challenging to recruit volunteers who are available weekdays.

We offer our volunteers training and workshops on important topics such as safe food handling and nutrition. If we had more resources, we could offer these workshops several times a year giving our volunteers more options to attend.

Most rewarding moments: Working at North York Harvest, I meet many people who have very little means and encounter much adversity. Yet, many remain optimistic, caring and thoughtful. Seeing the resilience of our volunteers is teaching me grace.

Recommended education to get this job: If you are looking to manage or coordinate volunteers, a volunteer management certificate course is extremely helpful. Humber College offers certificate courses in volunteer management.

Knowing what I know now: I would recommend that if you want to manage or coordinate volunteers it is very important to have first-hand volunteer experience. This will help you see the job from both sides. As an example, if you have volunteered and your experience has been positive, when you manage volunteers you can recall that volunteer satisfaction is vital to volunteer retention.

Help others with their career research and choices by sharing information about what you do. If you would like to be featured in A Day in the Life, please contact us at editor@charityvillage.com.

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