Here at Volunteer Marlborough, we often find ourselves in the odd position of needing to encourage organisations to take on more volunteers rather than burning themselves out trying to do everything on a bare bones staff. Although they know they need the help, they're reluctant to take on volunteers. When asked why this is, we often hear a number of reasons but top of the list is often something to do with the paid staff.
It is important, before engaging volunteers, to have buy-in from your staff so that you can ensure that your volunteer programme will be successful. So here's some ideas of how you can respond to some of the most common excuses we hear in response to why not-for-profit staff are reluctant to engage volunteers:
"I don't want someone else to come in and do my job"
Organisations shouldn't be bringing volunteers in to do the same work as paid staff. If this is happening, it isn't a volunteer role, it's a paid role. Volunteers should be brought in to supplement the work that the paid staff is doing by adding value for the organisation and its service users. Ask your staff to help create volunteer roles based on the support that they might need in their paid position!
"We don't have the time"
Fair enough, but it is our view that staff shouldn't be responsible for supervising volunteers unless it is in their role description so that the supervisory time can be built into the day. It should be senior management and/or the volunteer coordinator that is responsible for supporting the volunteers and for ensuring that staff have opportunities to perhaps develop those volunteer management skills at some point in the future.
"But it's going to be more trouble than it's worth"
Volunteers bring myriad benefits:
"I don't know how to work with volunteers"
This comes back to the responsibility of the management and volunteer coordinators. There may be training that needs to be provided on some elements of volunteer management. The extra benefit of this training is that it will give staff a better understanding of the value of engaging volunteers.
"We don't really need volunteers. We're fine on our own"
It is this one that we hear the most and maybe you really are doing 'fine' without volunteers. But this is also where we would encourage you to look at your organisation's mission and long-term goals. Perhaps your strategic and operational plans should include volunteers to achieve your goals. The benefits are clear!
If you're struggling to get staff buy-in to volunteer engagement, being prepared for some of these objections is a good start. You should also consider training for your staff that includes more about volunteer engagement, management, and how it all ties into your mission. We can help with that, so don't hesitate to get in touch!