Episode #026: Hiring? What to Include in Your Volunteer Coordinator Job Description 

Welcome to the Volunteer Nation Podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity, cause, membership, or movement, I made this podcast just for you.  

Well hello, everybody! Welcome to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And today we’re gonna talk about hiring and what to include in your volunteer coordinator job description.  

Now you may be a nonprofit executive who is looking to hire your next superstar to add to your team. You may be an existing volunteer manager who is looking to see if their position description is accurate and includes all it needs to.  

Whatever the reason, we’re here for you today to talk about what you’re gonna include in that job description. And I have an awesome free e-book that we’re giving you. And at the end of this podcast, I’ll talk to you about how to get your hands on that. 

Let’s kick it off with a discussion about whether or not, or you’re using the correct position title for your volunteer coordinator job description. In our Volunteer Management Progress Report survey, we have asked the survey respondents for several years – not in the last couple, but I think we’ll probably start asking again in this fall survey – but we ask about what people are calling their job as a leader of volunteers. 

And folks go by many names, but there are three names that really stand out as the most common. The first is coordinator. Hence the reason I titled this podcast, What to Include in Your Volunteer Coordinator Job Description.  

People are probably wondering why I use that particular job role. Coordinators are by far and above the most popular title for a leader of volunteers. Last time we checked, which was in 2019, we asked and “coordinator” enjoyed 36% of all of the responses in terms of what folks’ job title was. It was 41% in 2018, 43% in 2017, 39% in 2016. And so it’s been consistently year after year the most popular job title.  

The other job title, the second most popular job title is manager, so volunteer manager, and that was 27.1% in 2019. And similarly, throughout the years that we’ve asked, it’s been second in line every year.  

And then the third in line is director and that was at 16%. And similarly throughout the years, it’s been third in line. So coordinator is by far and away, in fact more than twice as often used than volunteer manager. And, you know, that’s interesting.  

But I think we need to go a little bit deeper because I’m not sure that everyone who is leading volunteers in our field has a job title that makes sense for their level of responsibility. So I want you to think about these definitions of these different levels and layers of responsibility, accountability management, et cetera. 

So I thought before we get into what we should include in this job title or in this job description, I want to talk about why we would choose a specific job title over another. So let’s start with coordinator volunteer coordinator.  

Now coordinators are generally entry level positions. When we think about traditional human resources, the way that we categorize different levels of responsibility, coordinator is generally entry level usually requires about one to three years of experience in the field, a bachelor’s degree. 

Folks can work on teams. They can work on their own. They basically coordinate aspects of a project and they will usually report to another manager, director level person at the organization. Now they may report to a volunteer manager. In this case, a volunteer coordinator can report to a volunteer manager. 

They are often required to. Their level of responsibility, or level of decision-making authority, is really limited. They really have to go to their manager and ask for information and ask their manager to make an executive decision about what steps to take forward.  

And, you know, I know of a lot of people, people inside our VolunteerPro Community, people in the Volunteer Management Fundamentals Certificate course, people I meet when I’m out on the road speaking, and they tell me their their job title is volunteer coordinator. And I think to myself, I don’t think that’s the right job title for you because you do more than that.  

So let’s look at the next level to see what that entails. So the next level is volunteer manager. So managers generally will deal with groups and priorities. So they’re generally mid-level positions. They require between two and five years of experience in the field.  

They come with a bachelor’s degree, and they oversee in this case of volunteer managers, they might oversee other volunteer coordinators. And they translate high end goals. So the organization’s goals into actionable plans of attack within their departments.  

So they don’t necessarily manage a department. They can, but they are really responsible for translating the organization’s goals into strategic actions that help re roll up to those larger goals. They will usually report to a director level person.  

That person may be a volunteer director, or they may be some other kind of program director at the organization. And they generally have authority to decide how they’re going to get the job done.  

So when I think of the majority of people I speak to about what they’re doing to lead volunteers, they end up falling, I think, in this middle category of management, because they really are making a lot of decisions on their own and they are creating a volunteer strategy that rolls up into supporting the organization’s larger goals.  

So many people, their job title’s volunteer coordinator. And I wonder if they are misnamed, they are misnamed. So think about that within your own organization.  

Now, the third level I wanna talk about is the director level, and I know some folks who are volunteer directors. And I believe that their volunteer director job title is the correct one for them. But let’s talk about what goes into the director level of volunteer management or leading volunteers. 

So the director level is a much more strategic level in an organization and that person or those people with the director title. And I’ve been there at director levels in different organizations is they decide where we’re going, not how we’re getting there.  

So in a lot of sense, the director level is almost a vice president. If you think of director, you know, nonprofits, we don’t have a lot of vice presidents in most organizations, some organizations we do, but a lot we don’t, but a director level is really a VP level.  

So they usually have over five years industry experience. Of course, they come with a degree. They oversee other staff who are responsible for developing and executing the agency’s volunteer strategy. 

And they also advise the executive director, the board chair, and board members about how to best engage volunteers. They are expected to come up with ideas, projects, and solutions that meet and organization strategic aims and, and work with other managers to achieve the agency’s results.  

So in some cases, and it makes sense that a volunteer director would have other volunteer coordinators or managers working under them, whether within the same organization. And the most times I see directors of volunteers, often they’re in a larger enterprise organization or they’re working in a national or global organization where they are the central director.  

So they’re really about thinking about the high-level strategy and then working with others to have that strategy executed. So that’s a director-level, directors generally will supervise others.  

Now I wanna mention one other role and that is of supervisor. There are people who supervise volunteers, who don’t always have volunteer supervisor as their name. So they’re dealing with individuals and tasks. 

They’re they may be responsible for supervising unpaid staff volunteers, or paid employees or paid staff. So they may or may not be responsible for leading the volunteer effort at the organization, but volunteers may be placed under their care and they are supervising volunteers as part and parcel of their larger job duties. 

I hope that helps you think through the different levels of what the job titles mean. So it’s not just a matter of, well, we’re gonna choose a job title willy-nilly. They definitely come with a level of experience, a level of authority and a level of responsibility vis-a-vis the organization’s larger strategic aim. 

So you’ve got your coordinator at the bottom level, the basic level. Your manager at a more experienced level, your director at a higher strategic level. And then you have supervisors sometimes throughout your organization that are responsible for leading volunteers.  

So choosing the job title really comes down to the level of experience and responsibility expected in the role. So you wanna make sure you choose the correct role. Now, sometimes people will choose a lower role because they don’t wanna pay as much.  

They feel like, you know what, I can get away with a coordinator role and, you know, I won’t have to spend as much money and we don’t have, you know, we’re working on our budget and we really have limited budget, and we really can’t afford it. 

If that’s the case, be careful with that because at a coordinator level, you cannot have expectations of a higher level. First of all, you’re not going to attract – we’re gonna talk in a minute what to put in a position description when you think about hiring a leader of volunteers – but you’re not going to have at a coordinator level, the level of experience or authority that person would have to really make sure things are running. 

That a coordinator level is just coordinating a specific small set of tasks, a discreet set of tasks. It’s not supervising others. It’s not aligning strategy. At the coordinator level, you’re told what to do and you do it.  

And so if you are an executive at a nonprofit and you are thinking about bringing on a volunteer coordinator, understand that, that at that level, they’re not gonna have the skills or expertise to be able to advise you in a high-level way about how volunteerism should go within your organization. 

So just be careful with that. Sometimes we think we’re saving money by starting out with an entry level position, but we often lose money due to lack of productivity or the person just doesn’t yet have the skillset needed, or our expectations are not realistic for that level. So I’m hoping that organizations take this as a lesson to consider. 

Do we have the right job title for the job we want this person or this group of people to do? I wanna take a quick break. And after this break, we’re gonna continue with our discussion on what to include in your next volunteer coordinator.  

And again, we’re using volunteer coordinator, but could be any job description. We hope it’s the relevant one. And after the break we’ll cover competencies you may be seeking and that you’ll want to include in your position description. 

Regardless of which role you’re in, there are some basic competencies that matter. It could be at different levels that are related to leading volunteers. And so, we’ll be right back after the break.  

If you enjoy this week’s episode of Volunteer Nation, we invite you to check out the VolunteerPpro Premium Membership. This community is the most comprehensive resource for attracting, engaging, and supporting dedicated high-impact volunteer talent for your good cause. 

VolunteerPro Premium Membership helps you build or renovate an effective what’s-working-now volunteer program with less stress and more joy so you can ditch the overwhelm and confidently carry your vision forward.  

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Okay, we’re back with our conversation about how to hire your next volunteer coordinator or volunteer manager or volunteer director. And I wanna talk in this section about what you want to include in your volunteer coordinator position description.  

And the things I’m gonna cover here, you can include no matter what level of role, so it could be volunteer manager, it could be volunteer director. Although at the director level, folks will be more than likely overseeing other people who are taking on these tasks.  

So let’s go through these one at a time, just so you have a sense. And also I wanna share at the end of my conversation a free guide on how to hire your next volunteer coordinator. And I’m gonna tell you how to get your hands on that in a minute. So hang tight and I’ll share that in just a few minutes.  

So, let’s talk about what are the essential skills for leaders of volunteers. And this is partly taken from the dictionary of occupational titles. I’ll post a link in the show notes if you wanna see that, it’s not very in depth.  

Here are some things that I’ve found both from the dictionary of occupational titles, which is sort of the list of all the jobs that happen here in the us, but also based on my own experience with what leaders of volunteers should and can do.  

So, first of all, we’re aligning the goals of volunteer services with the organization to ensure strategic aims are met. Now, if it’s a volunteer coordinator position, that’s less in the foreground because their job, again, isn’t to tackle agency strategy, their job’s to be told and get done.  

Now, if your job is volunteer coordinator and you’re like, “Wait a minute, I do way more than that!” Do not take offense. I’m trying to give the structure that it should be, not necessarily what it is or the value of your work. 

Please, please, please do not read this that way. I’m trying to get us to a baseline of understanding about the ways that our job titles and our job descriptions should be in an ideal world. And we’re not always in an ideal world. I get it!  

So aligning the goals of volunteer services, and that’s again, gonna be more your manager, director level consulting with leadership and staff to determine organization needs for various volunteer services.This is part of most jobs because we’re going out, we’re doing some needs assessment.  

We’re asking people what roles they need, but at a higher level at a manager or director level, we’re talking, we’re thinking about the organization as a whole and how volunteers should be involved.  

Third area of responsibility, developing and executing a recruitment plan. That includes marketing positions, interviewing and screening potential volunteers and placement in roles. Now this can be done in conjunction with a volunteer team.  

So your role may be volunteer manager, and you may have recruited volunteers to take part in helping you with that. But marketing and recruiting, that’s part of nearly every leader of volunteer’s roles.  

Now, in some cases, this function is placed in a different department, might be marketing communications. It might be human resources, but in most cases, it really sits in the lap of the leader of volunteers.  

Okay, fourth area: oversee orientation and initial training requirements of all volunteers. So it may be that a volunteer services department is placing volunteers in outside other departments with other supervisors of volunteers, but they are often responsible for getting volunteers oriented now, skills training based on the role.  

Once somebody’s in a department, the department may take responsibility for that, but usually the general orientation for new volunteers is handled by the leader of volunteers. And again, if you’re at the director level, you’re probably delegating that to another staff.  

Another area of responsibility is ensuring that program staff have the skills needed to train, supervise, and engage volunteers placed in their departments. I just talked about that. So really for performing a consultative role and a coaching and a support role to other staff throughout the organization. 

This helps because not everybody’s trained in volunteer engagement and is a job that requires a skillset. It often helps to have the leader of volunteers coaching folks on how to work most effectively with volunteers.  

Another area of responsibilities: preparing and maintaining all the documents related to volunteer management for policies and procedures, job descriptions, training manuals, and more. Now often, people think this is the main job of a leader of volunteers.  

And I can tell you that it, while it is important, it’s important to risk management, it’s important to developing a positive culture, a foundation…it is not the only thing people are doing. In fact, it’s probably, I would argue not the most important thing people will be doing, but it is important that your documents are well organized, well ordered and that the volunteers understand them and that other staff understand how things are done. 

When it comes to engaging volunteers, it’s an important foundational step. As an organization matures its volunteer involvement, then these become just updates, right? Just updates. And again, if you’re at a director level, you may be delegating this task.  

If you’re at a coordinator level, you may be working on these things one at a time. But someone at a higher level in your organization is approving. And they’re determining which documents you’ll be working on.  

Another area of responsibility is networking and speaking to community groups and raising the awareness of the volunteer program. The visibility. It’s important that we are out in communities. Now, with COVID it’s been difficult, of course.  

We haven’t been out necessarily in community, but we can definitely have phone calls. We can have zooms and when we’re ready, we can get out in the community. So it is important to network, whether it’s online or land to raise the visibility of the volunteer program.  

Another area, very similar is working with the marketing and communication staff to develop content related to volunteerism. So it might be social media content. It might be newsletter content. It might be content for annual reports, et cetera.  

It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the contributions that volunteers are making to your organization. And when volunteers are mentioned in these different communications channels, it also helps volunteerism.  

So it always has a secondary, even if it’s not a direct call to action, it has the secondary role of, or goal of, raising awareness so that when there is a call to action to join and support that folks have you top of mind.  

So it is important that marketing and communications and the leader volunteers work closely together because both functions within the organization, sometimes they’re working within the same department, often not, that they are both working with communicating with the public.  

Similarly with your development department, it’s important that your volunteer services folks and your development folks are speaking, just as is it’s important for your development folks and your Mar-Comms folks to speak together. These groups, these teams, even if they’re a team of one or a department of one, should be in constant communication. They should not operate in silos.  

Another area is maintaining accurate and secure volunteer records, both hard copy and digital. We talked about some of the documents. It’s also important. Volunteer information is private information, and we want to safeguard it, make sure our volunteers’ privacy is safeguarded. So we wanna make sure that those records are secure. 

Now, often involves your leader of volunteers working with your IT staff to make sure that the right safeguards are in place, whether it’s the type of passwords you’re using the type of access, what portals you’re using, what software you’re using, et cetera. 

And then finally, an area of interest is, or an area of responsibilities: analyzing, preparing, and presenting outcome reports on the extent, nature, and value of volunteers. Calculating the value of volunteers can be a sticky business.  

It’s not easy, but it is important that there are key performance metrics related to volunteerism so that you can see the progress of how it’s going and also the end result. So, you know, there’s some preliminary sort of volunteer involvement. You know, our volunteers signing up for shifts, our volunteers showing up for shifts, what are volunteer satisfaction, metrics, et cetera.  

It’s also important to track what volunteers, what impact they’re making within programs, whether it’s direct service or they’re helping out with events, what they’re raising money, whatever it is. Whatever that end outcome is.  

So there’s both the sort of formative outcome metrics that you can check to make sure the health of your volunteer program is doing well. But there’s also the impact. What are the impacts that volunteers are making?  

You’ve seen, you’ve listened to a long list. I hope you had a pen and pencil! You can always re-listen to this, or you can check out our show notes page as well as our transcript page on TobiJohnson.com and. this particular podcast. And you can just download that transcript and pull out these without even having to take notes.  

So there you go! So many of the skills that I’ve just mentioned and the responsibilities I’ve just mentioned assume that the employee has the skills and digital tools and the access to communication to others within the organization to get the job done and the support to get the job done. 

Just having these on the list doesn’t mean they become, so you’ve got to hire people or provide support to staff to ensure that they build these skills, you know, and depending on the level of responsibility and accountability that you’re hiring for at a coordinator-manager-director level, you will expect more and more of these skills to be active and relevant and used. 

Right. So just having these on your position descriptions is only half the battle, I guess that’s my point. So I also wanna mention a few other leadership skills that I’ve found over the years are really, really important to leaders of volunteers.  

And they are advocating for inclusive volunteerism at all levels of the organization. So important nowadays. And it always has been, but it’s become more and more. In conversation, in people, in volunteerism that we are making sure that volunteerism is open to everyone equally and equitably in our community.  

That’s a big question to ask. And it’s a big question to answer yes to, right? Setting that in place. Another leadership skill: encouraging and supporting compliance with volunteer policies at all levels.  

So this is an influence skill of making sure that everybody throughout the organization understands what is required of them when it comes to volunteers and volunteerism. Volunteer engagement is a team sport. It’s everybody’s responsibility.  

Resolving interpersonal conflicts related to volunteers and staff. These come up all the time. It is a normal part and parcel of working with people, and your leader of volunteers needs to be equipped to help negotiate some of these.  

Sometimes leaders of volunteers feel like they’re the referee, and you know what? They may have to be sometimes. So they need to be skilled up in that, coaching volunteers and coworkers around performance issues.  

So when it comes to coaching coworkers, now that’s gonna be at a director or manager level. A coordinator is not responsible nor do they have that level of authority to coach fellow coworkers on their performance issues. But there are times in the volunteer enterprise, when either the volunteer or the employee is not really performing to the standard and you need a staffer who’s able to do that and help them improve their performance and meet the minimum standards for your organization.  

Demonstrating appreciation and acknowledgement of volunteer work. This is important not only on an individual level, but on a creating agencywide formal recognition, as well as informal one-on-one recognition.  

So recognition and retention strategy is really important, and really making people feel like they belong. It’s, it’s a skill, there’s an art to it. And I think the people that do really well in volunteerism know how to do it. 

And then finally, a leadership skill representing the organization is in a positive way to the community at large. This means really deeply believing in the power of volunteerism to change lives. It’s not about complaining about how volunteers aren’t following through. That is not how you want your leader of volunteers reaching it to the community and representing you in the community. 

We need people who believe deeply. Now in order to sustain that belief, they also need to be supported. They don’t need to be undermined by coworkers or by a lack of resources or by a lack of appreciation, frankly, for the work they do. And I know some leaders of volunteers sometimes feel that way. 

Leading volunteers is a difficult job. If you haven’t figured it out already, these are sometimes hard things to learn and to execute. So be as supportive as you can.  

So I hope today’s podcast episode has helped you think about your next volunteer coordinator, volunteer manager, volunteer director job description. You can tag us on social at VolPro.net. That’s our VolunteerPro side of our house. Our company’s TobiJohnson.com, but we have our VolunteerPro side of the house where we do all of our digital training.  

And let us know if you have a job opening and we’ll network and post it within our network and let all the leaders of volunteers that follow us know that you have a job opening. So just tag us on social at VolPro.net and let us know you have a job opening link to it and we’ll help promote.  

Now, finally, I also mentioned, I wanted to share a free guide for you. It’s called “How to Hire a Kick-Ass Volunteer Program Manager.” So there you go. How to Hire a Kick-Ass Volunteer Program Manager. 

Don’t you love that title? We were a little bit spunky with this one, so I hope there’s no kids in the car when you’re driving right now. But so, this has really been developed for volunteer-driven organizations.  

You know, volunteers offer the support needed to make your mission happen. However, it can only occur when your team or your employees are professionally and diligently, led and nurtured by yourself, but also they are leading and nurturing your volunteer team.  

So, you know, we are really, our goal is to make sure you have well prepared, dedicated professional managers and coordinators and parcel of that is finding the right people. So that’s why we developed this.  

This free hiring guide is specifically for executive directors and hiring managers who are ready to hire their perfect kick-ass volunteer program manager and move your organization’s mission forward. So here’s where you can go and grab that. You can go to the show notes for this podcast episode, or you can go to volpro.net/hire and grab your copy of that free guide. 

So check it out. It mentions much more than I mentioned today during this. It’s a, I don’t know how many pages, I can’t remember how many pages, but it is many pages long where you can really learn everything that goes into hiring the right person for your job.  

It’s a specialized skill. Talented people are out there who have skills in this area. It’s important and vital that you find the right person. So this guide will help you do that.  

So I hope you enjoy today’s episode. I covered everything you want to include in your volunteer position description at basic, at minimum. Of course, you’re gonna include anything else that’s specific to your organization.  

If you found this episode helpful, I hope you’ll share it with a friend and I hope you’ll scroll to the bottom and give us a rating. You know, hopefully it’s a five-star rating. The more ratings and reviews we get, the more our podcast shows up in search engines in the podcast space.  

So I hope you’ll help us out there. And join us next time, same time, same place for another episode of the Volunteer Nation.  

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review so we can reach people like you who wanna improve the impact of their good cause.  

For more tips and notes from the show, check us out at TobiJohnson.com. We’ll see you next week for another installment of Volunteer Nation.