Idea 2: Determine your capacity to manage volunteers.

Working with volunteers can add value to an organization, but it is never ‘free’. It involves an investment of both time and money.

Before accepting volunteers, time needs to be spent developing policies and operational systems for volunteer involvement. Then, recruiting and training volunteers requires time. And, once volunteers are in place, an ongoing time commitment to maintaining a relationship with volunteers is required. This includes supervision, communication, evaluation, recognition, and trouble shooting.

Capacity also includes financial considerations. Funds will need to be allocated for training materials and for some form of volunteer recognition. In some cases, expenses for supplies will need to be covered. And, depending on the circumstances, a workspace and/or equipment (e.g. computer) may need to be provided. There is a tendency to underestimate the real costs of volunteer involvement.

Voices from the field:

  • Volunteers are time consuming. They are not staff. Sometimes volunteers take up more time than they save. Ensure you factor this into your planning.
  • Our volunteer tutor coordinator has done an amazing job creating a community of volunteer tutors in our adult tutoring program. She has tutor gatherings where volunteers come together to share ideas, experiences and wisdom (and of course to share food) and to have access to trainings. Tutors who are not matched with a learner become part of the group even when they are not active. This takes time and resources but it has made our program strong and successful. It is worth the effort but is often an underestimated piece of the whole. Creating a community of volunteers creates strength and sustainability and volunteers feel valued. That said, as our program has grown and become more successful, we have struggled with having the capacity to do what it takes.

To learn more:

Administrators of Volunteer Resources BC. (2001). Standards of practice. Retrieved from
» This resource lists the tasks and responsibilities involved with volunteer management.

Kaatari, J. & Trottier, V. (2002). Community Literacy of Ontario’s SmartSteps to organizational excellence. Barrie, ON: Community Literacy of Ontario. Also available online at
»This resource includes a chapter on assessing organizational capacity and one tool in particular for assessing volunteer capacity.

MacDonald, R. & Cosburn, J. (2005). Literacy volunteers: value added toolkit. Barrie, Ont.: Community Literacy Ontario.
»Includes a Volunteer Capacity Assessment tool, p. 16.

Volunteer Canada. (2012). The Canadian code for volunteer involvement: values, guiding principles and standards of practice. Retrieved from
»This resource looks at the responsibilities involved in managing volunteers.

Last updated: November 12, 2015