Who Should Do It? Dealing with the Division of Labor

VolunteerHub LogoThe following is a guest post from VolunteerHub.com writer Shawn Kendrick. VolunteerHub is a leading cloud-based software that streamlines volunteer management. For two decades, VolunteerHub has been trusted by volunteer coordinators throughout the world. With over 1 million event registrations managed, VolunteerHub simplifies the scheduling, registration, and tracking of volunteers.  VolunteerHub is a product of Carr Engineering, Inc. Learn more about VolunteerHub >> Deciding on the division of work within a department can be difficult. You have to take care to make sure everyone is challenged but not overburdened. No matter how hard you try, it can be hard to get it just right. Some workers will always feel they carry more than their fair share of the load. Others think that you didn’t give them enough duties because you don’t value their expertise and may even become bored or complacent. When you add volunteer considerations to the mix, you’ve got even more to think about. Below we discuss some perspectives to consider when deciding who does what.

Think Public Relations First

Your first thought in assigning any duties should be about what kind of image you will be putting out to those your serve and to the general public. If the job you are assigning has a great deal of public relations involved, it’s probably best to have your paid staff perform the function. You don’t want the general public to think you have all your non-paid folks doing the work while your actual employees hang out in the back office. Of course, we know behind-the-scenes work is as difficult and important as customer-facing tasks, but people want to know who/what their taxes/donations are going toward. It’s more tangible to them if they actually interact with the paid staff.

Look at Dollars and Cents

Now that we’ve got your organization’s image covered, we will want to look at matters from a monetary standpoint. Nonprofits, of course, have to consider dollars and cents when making decisions, just as for-profit businesses do. In general, you’ll want to look at the labor costs and attempt to sink as little of these costs as possible. For example, you have a project that requires ten hours of administrative time and then ten more hours to actually execute it. You expect you will earn $40 an hour during the execution phase (a fundraising project, for instance) and nothing during the administration part, effectively making the administrative portion a sunk cost. You have one paid worker at $20 an hour for the project and one volunteer. All things equal, you would want the volunteer to be used for the administrative portion and the paid worker on the execution phase.

What difference does it make? you might be wondering. It’s going to cost us $20 an hour for ten of the hours, and the other ten hours will be free, any way I slice it. Either way I’m investing the same amount of money in the project. The difference is this: by using the volunteer in the earlier phase, you are sinking $0 in the administrative time. If you find out early in the execution phase that you are only making $10 an hour in revenue while paying $20 an hour, you can pull the plug early, thus mitigating your losses.

Don’t Forget about the Volunteer’s Perspective

Of course, the above examples are very cut and dry. In the real world, if you strictly offer menial work to your volunteers, many won’t stick around long. So, if you have a volunteer who is great with people and doesn’t want to hide behind a desk, get him or her out there in front of folks. Same goes for volunteer recruitment: it makes the most sense to get happy volunteers to recruit other potential candidates. Just be sure to check with your volunteers often to gauge their preferences. Some will encourage you to take advantage of their expertise and skill set, while others would rather contribute in a less taxing way. Use these preferences, along with your staff’s, to decide who will shine on a particular job or project.

Ultimately, it’s up to the volunteer coordinator to know your employees’ and your volunteers’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as the nuances of your situation. When this is combined with the factors mentioned above, you’ll find task assignments to be both easier and more fruitful for your organization.