Your views on volunteer management will get a seismic shake-up from this article by author and volunteer management expert Martin J. Cowling published in the ENGAGE journal.

Here is a summary.

Volunteering trends

Volunteering has changed and Covid-19 simply exposed that change. Our older volunteers are disengaging from volunteering and most organisations are completely failing to attract the newer generation. Volunteering has to compete for the most valuable resource humans have: time. In many countries, we have seen a massive ‘shock’ in volunteering numbers. Participation rates have plunged, the hours contributed declined and organisations are reporting that ‘their’ volunteers are simply not returning.

BUT people are still committed to causes they are passionate about and willing to give time for them. Somewhere between these people wanting to make a difference and our current volunteering organisational models lies a huge chasm. Cowling argues that leaders of volunteers need to bridge that gap with a revolution. Only they can mobilise the community to solve the issues of the community.

New standards needed

Cowling gives seven standards that revolutionary leaders need to create a vision of volunteering in the 21st century.

  1. Sell the impact of volunteering.
    Ask your volunteers, how has volunteering for us impacted you? Then use that information to sell volunteering to your community.
  2. Create a strategic organisational view of volunteering.
    Volunteering needs to be front and centre of an organisation’s community impact and fundraising strategy
  3. Redefine volunteer characteristics. For example, volunteers want have a sense of wonder and excitement, to do something meaningful, use their skills, and connect with others.
  4. Maximise flexibility
    Training and volunteering needs to when people have spare time e.g. weekends, and in the way they want e.g. online.
  5. Maximise visibility
    Engage members of your community using the internet and social media.
  6. Embrace diversity
    Do your materials and practices address your diverse audiences?
  7. Maximise volunteer satisfaction
    Volunteers are brand ambassadors for volunteering. If volunteering is negatively impacting your volunteers, make changes. Check in regularly with volunteers to find out how satisfying volunteering is for them.

Which of these practices will you change up?

The full article can be read in the Engage Journal, an online journal for volunteer engagement leaders. Volunteering New Zealand members can receive access to Engage free of charge. Email: