Volunteer Management Model

29 September 2015

As a member of the Learning and Practice team I was surprised when my line manager put my name forward to write a paper for the Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Research Conference.

My colleagues in the Research team have always attended this conference so I assumed it was mainly research focussed.  I was shocked when I got the news that the paper had been accepted for presentation at the conference but it was well received and organisations were even interested in using the model with their volunteers. The conference was attended by a mix of researchers and practitioners who, like me, are interested in making the link between research and practice.

The practice focused paper outlined how we developed a volunteer management model and associated life cycles for use in our training courses.
ZM Blog 3The Volunteer Management model breaks volunteer management down into 4 stages;

• thinking about volunteering
• getting started
• making a difference
• building on success.

All of the training courses offered at Volunteer Scotland sit somewhere within the Volunteer Management model and at the start of each course the model is introduced to show participants how the course content relates to wider practice.

The full life cycles provide further detail on each of the 4 stages and are written from a volunteer and organisations perspective.

  • The 'Volunteer Needs Life Cycle' identifies what a volunteer needs in order to have a good experience (Image right)
  • The 'Organisation Needs Life Cycle' outlines what an organisation needs to have in place in order to offer this good experience. (Image right)

These life cycles are used as tools when delivering training. 


For example, when discussing how volunteer managers can support their volunteers, participants identify all the different ways in which volunteers can be supported and then map these across the life cycle to consider how the support they offer a volunteer will change at different stages.

Morag Buxel, a volunteer manager who attended ‘Volunteer Management – The Essentials’ said;

“one of the key learnings for me has been about progressing volunteers and not wanting to keep them 'making a difference' forever. Often we talk about 'losing volunteers' and the lifecycle model has helped me in discussions with project managers and funders that this is not a negative thing if they have had a positive and planned ending or moving on.”

The real value in the life cycle is that it highlights aspects that each organisation needs to consider when managing volunteers but it is flexible enough that they can decide what is right for the individual volunteer, volunteer roles and their organisation. The life cycles also allow volunteer managers to consider individual volunteers and understand that not all volunteers will progress through the life cycle in the same way. Furthermore, organisations are also able to consider and define what is going to work best for them and the volunteers.

For example, within the making a difference stage, which is about the delivery of volunteering, organisations need to ‘communicate effectively’ and this will be different for each organisation. For a small organisation with one office where all volunteer roles are based, their methods of effective communication will be different to a large organisation whose volunteers are often based in the field. So, from the life cycle, the important thing is that an organisation has considered how to communicate most effectively for their situation.

Interested in our Volunteer Management Training? Check out what we have availble here and sign up quick!

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