Volunteer Managers Share Best Practices, Among Them: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

By Susie Polnaszek, Center for Nonprofit Excellence of the Community Foundation for Monterey County

Volunteers can make a big difference in nonprofits reaching their mission. Independent Sector has even calculated an economic value for volunteer hours in California: $29.09 in 2017! Volunteer managers and coordinators from a range of local nonprofits recently discussed best practices and lessons learned for how best to retain and give recognition to valued volunteers. Being adaptive and respectful are two key aspects in this work.


It’s necessary to adapt and be flexible based on volunteers’ different needs, availability, and motivation. One key to retaining volunteers is to recognize that their motivation and availability may change over time.  Differences can also mirror generational differences among volunteers.

“Our job is to open doors for volunteers’ talents and ‘assets’.  Don’t discount the episodic volunteer,” says Andrea Fuerst of Meals on Wheels Monterey Peninsula. “Keep the conversation with volunteers alive, even when their availability and needs change.”

Be Respectful

For Natalia Molina of Alliance on Aging, it is important to connect volunteers’ hearts and minds to the stories of the nonprofit and approach volunteers with respect.

“When volunteers feel respected and appreciated, they feel valued and this builds commitment.”

This respect includes an orientation by staff at the nonprofit to valuing the role that volunteers play in their success and mission delivery.  At GRID Alternatives, people start as volunteers and can become clients of their workforce development efforts. Luis Gonzalez, Workforce Development and Volunteer Coordinator shared that GRID staff has worked to build awareness that volunteer-clients come from all demographics and backgrounds.

Additional Resources

The Volunteer Managers Association of the Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County NAMC meets semi-annually for networking lunches and peer learning. Events are offered in partnership with Community Builders for Monterey County the Center for Nonprofit Excellence of the Community Foundation for Monterey County.