3 Ways to Leverage Volunteer Leaders to Build Capacity

Nov 29, 2022

There are many factors that influence the number of volunteers you should plan to have involved with your organization’s service projects, including budget, supplies and space. However, if the barrier to hosting a larger project is staffing, it’s time to think differently about how you manage projects. Leveraging volunteer leaders is a great way to increase the size and scale of your projects while also building your organization’s capacity and community impact. As you explore adding volunteer leaders to your projects, consider these three ways to make the most of volunteers who want to impact their communities as well as your own organization’s capacity opportunities: .

1. Create a Position Description

It’s important to know what you’re looking for in a volunteer leader and which role you want them to play. What experience do they need to have? Do they need to be comfortable with public speaking? Should they have a specific skill or certification? Be clear on the profile you’re targeting when searching for volunteer leaders, as well as their roles and responsibilities, and then capture the details in a position description.

2. Recruit Volunteer Leaders Strategically

Sometimes you need to look no further than your existing network of volunteers to find great leaders. Most of us have that group of rock star volunteers who bring a lot of energy to projects, demonstrate great leadership and are dependable. Let these volunteers know that you recognize their contributions to your organization by sharing the opportunity with them.

Consider other ways to recruit volunteer leaders:

  • Post the position on your website.
  • Promote the position on your organization’s social media channels.
  • Reach new potential volunteers by posting the position on Points of Light’s volunteer database.
  • Share the position with local professional groups, civic engagement organizations and community service clubs of local universities.
  • Ask those rock star volunteers to share the position with those they think would be a good fit.

3. Offer Training and Support for Volunteer Leaders

Volunteer leaders are still volunteers, and it’s important to maintain a personal connection with them. After orientation and training, you will still want to coach and mentor them to help individual leaders grow their thinking and capacity to lead. 

Provide clear guidelines, due dates, reminders and clarification of requirements. More importantly, know your their strengths, as well as opportunities for growth, so that you can better help them develop their skills. If you foster their development as you do for staff, your organization is more likely to retain a strong and growing body of committed, qualified volunteer leaders.

Decide whether you want to support volunteer leaders formally or informally. Formal support can include regularly scheduled meetings and task-specific training. Informal support occurs as it is needed rather than at scheduled times and can include calls or emails to check in. 

Provide opportunities for volunteer leaders to share best practices and learn from each other, such as casual gatherings at a coffee shop or a virtual meetup. Recognize outstanding and dedicated volunteers by nominating them to be a Daily Point of Light or become a certifying organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Through this continued support, you are preparing volunteer leaders to take greater responsibility, and in doing so, engage even more volunteers.

Points of Light

We are champions of civic engagement with a mission to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.