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What is a Volunteer Coordinator?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 17, 2024
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A volunteer coordinator oversees the activities of volunteers in a wide range of venues. He not only organizes and supervises activities and tasks, but is also expected to provide training, guidance and inspiration. The position may be full-time, but in some organizations it can be seasonal or part-time if volunteers are needed only for special projects. The position may be paid or performed on a volunteer basis, although the former is more common, especially if full-time volunteer coordination is required.

Unlike a supervisor or coordinator in charge of salaried employees, a volunteer coordinator is in charge of unpaid workers. This requires a delicate approach and motivational attitude since volunteers are under no obligation to do a job and have nothing to lose if they decide to quit. An exception to this is if the volunteer work has been mandated by a court of law as community service performed in lieu of paying a fine.

Since volunteers usually come from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, multi-level and multi-cultural communication skills are imperative to the success of a volunteer coordinator. Knowing how to motivate and supervise different personality types is a must. Efficient and creative conflict resolution skills also are important to maintain a friendly atmosphere and promote community spirit in working toward a common goal.

Before the direction of a group of volunteers gets started, the volunteer coordinator commonly meets with the organization leaders behind the project to clearly define the goals of the volunteer project or program. Daily or weekly progress reports are often required to monitor volunteer activities and make sure goals are being met in a timely manner. Sometimes several volunteer coordinators work for the same organization in different capacities. It is advantageous if they regularly communicate and support one another.

If court mandated volunteers are involved, the volunteer coordinator is required to fill out progress reports for the courts. Occasionally the coordinator may be called upon to provide oral or written comments on the volunteer’s performance, attitude or work ethic. Courts also normally require to be notified if volunteers fail to perform or display improper behavior as a volunteer.

Volunteer coordinators interact with many agencies and companies in the community to determine which ones are in greatest need of volunteer assistance. They meet with company representatives to develop appropriate programs and create training and implementation schedules amenable to the volunteers and companies. It is often necessary to coordinate with other volunteer organizations to avoid overlapping activities.

If a person chooses a career as a volunteer coordinator, it is desirable to have a bachelor’s degree in human services or sociology. Background as a volunteer or in volunteer program management also is helpful. Experience in public speaking, computer operations and data reporting and analysis are all considered assets for aspiring volunteer coordinators.

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