Literacy Volunteer Management

Volunteers are a critical part of many literacy programs in BC. They can serve in a variety of roles such as office management, tutoring, board governance or fundraising. There are three main aspects (also called the “3 R’s”) to managing a successful volunteer program: recruitment, retention and recognition. Having a thorough plan in place covering these topics will help keep a volunteer program running smoothly.


Volunteer recruitment can take many forms such as emails, blog posts, the organization’s website and job postings on volunteer centre websites, such as Volunteer BC. Word of mouth is another way to recruit volunteers. This is especially powerful if existing volunteers help to spread the word.

“Building upon an existing peer network can be one of the best ways to increase the number of volunteers and volunteers who plan to engage long-term with your organization.” – Nonprofit Tech for Good

Also, consider partnering with a local school, college or university so that students can gain valuable skills while your organization gets the help it needs. Engaging with a corporate volunteer program may be another avenue to explore.


“Volunteers need to be continually motivated in order for them to stay on. Think about how to motivate them.” – Working with Volunteers – 25 Ideas for Good Practice

Volunteers often start out excited and engaged with their new role. However, that excitement can wane and once they disengage, it becomes very challenging to get them back. While motivation will be somewhat unique to each volunteer, there are some activities that should be a part of your overall retention plan: training, leveraging their unique skills, measurable milestones and communication.

First and foremost, volunteers need to be adequately trained for the role they are taking on. Training can take a matter of minutes or weeks depending on the role. Most importantly, volunteers need to feel prepared for their role and know the expectations of them.

You selected your volunteer based on the skills they bring to the organization. Be sure to match the volunteer’s skill set to the role. Offer them opportunities to lead in their area of expertise.

Set up projects with an end date so they feel they have accomplished a goal. Even if the project does not have an end date, setting up milestones they can reach can help maintain motivation.

Keeping the lines of communication open is also very important for volunteer retention. Check in regularly or set up regular meetings. When appropriate, include them in organizational planning and meetings.

“Communicate process, changes, successes, challenges; share the vision; when applicable invite them to be part of the planning; celebrate; keep it fun; show appreciation continuously.” – Working with Volunteers – 25 Ideas for Good Practice

Finally, recognition of the volunteer’s contributions is imperative to retention.


Recognition can take many forms and may be tailored to the individual. Remember, more introverted personalities may not appreciate a public display of appreciation. Praising them in private may be more appreciated. As part of your communication plan, share with them how their contributions are helping the organization. A volunteer party may be a welcome recognition event for a group of volunteers. Featuring volunteers in your public communications, such as newsletters or blogs, is another way to recognize their efforts. Find the solution that best fits the individuals you work with.

There are many aspects to running a successful volunteer program. Check out the resources below to learn more.


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