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A different kind of bookkeeping

We’ve been talking a lot about the big picture of volunteer management. But it’s important to remember the details—and the individual volunteers—too.

We should take the time to sit down and map out all the people involved in running our associations. How long have they been around? Who have they recruited to join them in the leadership group? Are people starting to burn out because no one’s around to shoulder part of the load? Is leadership capacity slowly dwindling and dragging down the organization?

Someone just resigned—does the president know what to do or does she just start performing that function herself? A new member writes an email wanting to get involved—how do you answer?

So often, we focus so singlemindedly on our programs and technical issues that we forget what I call “people bookkeeping.” It’s a little more qualitative, but in the long run, no less important than keeping the finances in order. Taking time to think through what will make volunteers happy and productively engaged has a tremendous ROI, even if that means scaling back other programs or initiatives for a time.



Nick, many associations already have the capacity to track this to a great extent: their association management system (AMS). Most well-designed AMSs have a committee management module, which can be easily extended to manage all types of volunteer activity.

I frequently exhort my clients to track all of their volunteer activity (e.g., speaking, committee work, writing) in their AMS, so that they can easily see who is contributing time, and how much. This level of engagement can frequently equal the value of straight financial transactions. Associations need to understand what that value is and track it.

Wes you are right on, many do have the capacity. They just aren't using it either by not tracking or by not looking at the data and using it.

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