A leader of volunteers needs to excel in three areas. Would you agree?

Readers, I need your input.

I’m creating a new webinar – but it’s not for volunteer managers. It’s for our nonprofit leaders – the Executive Directors, CEOs, and other senior decision-makers who bring us into their organizations.

My goal is to help nonprofit leaders spot the talent most likely to build a high-impact, capacity-building volunteer program. It’s about what nonprofits need to look for the right person for job.

And that goal begs the question:

What ARE the competencies that make for a super-capable volunteer manager?

Certainly, prior volunteer management experience is great – and the CVA credential is ideal. But my guess is that many, many of us come to our roles without these assets. The ones who stick around (and are reading this post) are the ones who discovered that volunteer engagement was a great match for their skills and values.

I posed the essential skills question to my Facebook group a while back. They identified some very particular competencies for a volunteer manager to possess, such as:

  • Organizational skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Flexibility, and… (does this go without saying?)
  • A great sense of humor

These suggestions were very helpful, and they allowed me to zero in on three competencies that I consider priorities for someone who leads a volunteer program.

  • Super-strong interpersonal skills

…because we know that volunteer management is about cultivating relationships. Volunteers remain loyal to organizations that take the time to know them. A capable volunteer manager knows how to forge those relationships, how to set limits without ruffling feathers, and how to hold the occasional difficult conversation.

  • A talent for creating and maintaining systems…

…because managing people is all about maintaining order. An effective volunteer manager is a champ at creating systems to sustain her program at every phase of the volunteer engagement cycle.

And then there is the time-consuming process of data tracking, including volunteer scheduling, training dates, background check results, and volunteer satisfaction surveys. It’s the attention to data that allows a volunteer manager to fine tune her practices and ramp up volunteer retention.

  • Ability to advocate…

…because volunteer managers are the content experts for their organizations – and it takes some powerful influencing skills to educate co-workers about the value of properly engaging volunteers. Without the buy-in of co-workers, a volunteer program is limited in the impact it can make for an organization.

But what about you, readers? Have I identified the most important skills and abilities – or is there something important that’s been overlooked?

Or, to put the question another way:

If you were hiring a leader of volunteers, what skill sets would YOU look for?

And – perhaps even more important:

What would you want a nonprofit leader to know about running a volunteer program?

This post happens to coincide with the National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership a remarkable gathering of volunteer management leaders, trainers, and overall influencers, with the purpose expanding the visibility and credibility of our profession.

A key conference goal is to take advantage of this collective expertise and develop new, concrete strategies for advancing volunteerism in our communities. We will all be called upon to do our part and continue the momentum for change we are bound to experience at the conference.

For me, that change includes equipping our nonprofit leaders with the information that they need to support a thriving volunteer program.

Let’s crowdsource some of that education. Please leave your comments, below!

Are you attending the National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership? If you are, join me for one of my sessions or just stop by to say hi!  Check out the session descriptions here.  – Elisa