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Giving Volunteers Feedback – Subscriber Circle Summary & Tips

Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator

In March 2015, a number of volunteer managers and coordinators from Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations came together to discuss “Giving Volunteers Feedback” at Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriber Circle. Here are a few key highlights and tips from the session:

  • Set up a Performance Review System:
  • In the position description, include your expectations of the volunteer, the consequences for failing to meet those expectations and your timelines for follow-up and feedback
  • Set-up a probation period (a few weeks to a few months, depending on the volunteer’s term), conduct a consistent feedback schedule (every 6 weeks or months, for instance) and also provide ongoing feedback
  • Feedback takes many shapes:
  • Evaluation forms are often one or two paged print-outs with various quantitative data collection tools - such as scales (1 to 5), checkboxes and/or degrees – as well as qualitative feedback in the form of questions/answers and comments
  • Informal conversations can occur on a scheduled basis and allow you to have a more personal discussion with volunteers – this can help you provide genuine, face-to-face feedback and assess other areas of volunteer involvement through conversation
  • End-of-shift feedback can be a simple “thank you” or impact statement; it can also allow you to address an issue that came up during the shift and get the volunteer’s side of the story
  • Electronic follow-up utilizes web tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to facilitate anonymous or otherwise feedback
  • Some key points about giving feedback:
  • When providing feedback, focus on what the volunteer can get out of it as well as the organization – remember the “give and get” of volunteering, they’re giving you their time but they’re also getting something out of it
  • Always allow for 2-way feedback, manager gives volunteer feedback, volunteer gives manager feedback
  • Make sure providing feedback is built-in and standardized, all volunteers know that it is part of their engagement (short term or long term) – this also ensures that volunteers are aware of the consequences and the serious measures associated with them
  • Reiterate the volunteer’s impact in their feedback – “because of your work, we were able to do ____” and encourage changes and improvements to increase potential impact
  • Be a coach, a guide and be there for volunteers
  • Use volunteer logs (work completed, notes, etc.) as a means to track progress and provide feedback for volunteers
  • It is not your responsibility to pass on negative feedback from someone (a community member, a staffperson or another volunteer) to the volunteer; remember that “it doesn’t matter who said it, the volunteer’s work affects everyone

Looking for more ideas on giving volunteers feedback? Stay tuned for a new Subscriber Resource Guide & Workbook on Volunteer Feedback & Evaluation in Summer 2015.

Subscriber Circles are themed discussion groups for volunteer coordinators and managers, hosted monthly by Volunteer Toronto in-house and in different parts of Toronto. Subscriber Circles are free for Full Subscribers.

Click here to see more free resources!

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