Your Personal Signature: The Management Style That Empowers Your Volunteer Program
When people talk about what makes the volunteer program of a non-profit agency successful, many factors are discussed such as meeting recruiting goals, excellent training and talented volunteers that provide substantial value added to the agency budget.
But no program is successful without you, the director of the program. We have a variety of titles, possess a unique combination of talents that are hard to quantify and if we will admit it, often accomplish things (or get them going in the right direction) by sheer force of our interpersonal skills.
We're managers. Daily we face the challenge of directing a diverse staff with the support of a small budget. How do you do it? If your board of directors asked you to define your management style, what would you tell them to convince them that just not anyone can do your job - and do it well?
Re-inventing management concepts for the idea-hungry public has been popular for years - there are dozens of books about management styles. Your personal style has been shaped by a number of factors including:
- Your own personality and cumulative professional experience
- The environment of your agency
- The needs of your agency staff and your volunteers
- Your agency's objectives
Managing is a left brain-right brain collaboration and no one management style works in every situation, so you are probably employing several of these styles:
(1) Management by Walking Around: Effective managers don't sit in their office - they are out walking around their agency, talking to volunteers and gathering information as they perform their assignments. They're talking to staff, too, to understand how volunteers are performing and trying to discern how volunteers can be even more effective.
(2) Management by Exception: One of the most desired goals of every volunteer program manager: to delegate the maximum amount of planning to volunteer staff, stepping in when necessary.
(3) Management by Coaching and Development: The volunteer program manager functions extensively as a trainer of the volunteer staff. Comprehensive training with well-articulated position descriptions, a lending library and in-service training (with paid staff when possible) distinguish this style. This style works effectively with number four...
(4) Management by Consensus: Managers create position descriptions and ways of work that benefit from the input of volunteers. Every time I train a new volunteer for a specific assignment, I ask them after one month to critique the position description they were given. This enables me to progressively improve the training we provide.
(5) Management by Performance: The level of quality of volunteer performance is improved through motivation and building an effective relationship. As Nan Hawthorne has written, recognition is not a once-a-year event - it is an ongoing experience shared by volunteer and manager. It moves the volunteer - manager relationship from the point of initial "sale" to an evolving relationship that will keep the volunteer returning to your agency.
(6) Management by Objectives: An oldie but goodie where your board of directors sets objectives for the agency and then the manager of the volunteer program sets objectives for each volunteer that will support the agency objectives. This style presents you with the opportunity to document and show your volunteers the tangible way they support your agency. Members of Generation Jones (see VMR July 24: Meet Generation Jones) will benefit from this goal-oriented style.
Involve your volunteers in your management self-analysis and utilize their perspective. Ask them why they like to work for you - what do you do that makes them comfortable and effective in their assignments week after week? (You could also do this as part of your annual volunteer satisfaction survey.)
Write down the answers and create a definition of your own management style. You might come up with one such as mine: Management by Open Office Door. My volunteers told me that communication and sharing of information have been a key component in forming a strong bond between them and the Baltimore Ronald McDonald House.
Gaining a more complete understanding of your management style will help you nourish an environment for continued growth for your volunteer program -- and you, the manager of the program.