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Preparing Your Short-Term Volunteer Roles

Posted By Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator, October-21-15
Updated: October-19-15
Estimated reading time - 3 minutes              


Currently, short-term volunteering is one of the biggest trends in volunteer management. More and more volunteers want to make a bigger impact in a shorter time-frame – maybe they can’t commit to long-term or recurring programs, or maybe they’re drawn to the shorter event or activity you’re running. Either way, volunteer managers, and coordinators want to know how to engage this new crop of short-term volunteers.

As Volunteer Toronto’s Training Coordinator, I meet a lot of volunteer managers and coordinators from different kinds of organizations. Some manage a few volunteers who’ve stayed on for years and years. Others bring in a thousand volunteers for two weeks and then may not see a lot of them again! In providing training and materials to help all kinds of volunteer managers do their jobs well, I’ve found the best approach is to cater to as many kinds of volunteer needs as possible.

Today, we’re releasing our newest Resource Guide & Workbook on Short-Term Volunteers. In preparing the workbook, I could see the need for this kind of information was growing as Toronto already has many festivals, single day events, short-term and seasonal volunteer activities.  You might need volunteers for your sports league that only lasts a couple of months, or you might need a lot of volunteers for a big fundraising event for one night. On top of all those events and seasonal programs, more and more volunteer managers and coordinators are seeing the value of setting up short-term projects for volunteers who want to make a big impact without a long-term commitment. How do you prepare these volunteers for their roles? And perhaps more importantly, how do you prepare your organization for short term volunteers?

To help get you started, here are a few tips straight from our new Resource Guide & Workbook:


  1. Screen every volunteer – even if the volunteer is short-term and may be contributing 6 hours on only one day, you must always find a way to screen your volunteers to make sure it’s a good fit – get help from existing or program volunteers to conduct phone interviews or better review applications

  2. Train every volunteer – while not every volunteer will be available for an in-person orientation, have all materials available to every volunteer through a handbook or website; you need to make sure your volunteers know and follow your basic rules and procedures and know enough about your organization and who they serve to be a good ambassador

  3. Supervise every volunteer – if your event or activity has more than a handful of volunteers, it could be very difficult to provide supervision for all of them; make sure you have senior volunteers, staff, board members and/or others you can rely on to supervise and oversee volunteer operations.

Knowing where your organization – and your volunteer program – stands in working with short-term volunteers can help you engage more of them, in ways that are both rewarding for them and helpful for your organization.

To learn more about how to deal with the challenges of engaging short-term volunteers, get better prepared for engaging them effectively, and learn some promising practices from Toronto organizations, check out our brand new Resource Guide & Workbook on Short-Term Volunteers – FREE for all Volunteer Toronto Subscribers!

Not a subscriber? Find out how subscribing to Volunteer Toronto can help you achieve volunteer management greatness!

As Volunteer Toronto's Training Coordinator, Sammy develops and delivers in-person, online and on-demand training in order to support managers and coordinators of volunteers in Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations. 

Tags:  Short-Term Volunteers  supervising volunteers  volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management  volunteer program  volunteer recognition  Volunteer Retention  volunteer training 

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