25 Roles You Had No Idea Make Up the Job of a Volunteer Engagement Leader

Nicole R. Smith
7 min readOct 18, 2023
A collage of pictures representing different positions that volunteer leaders embody.

It’s no secret that those who work in the nonprofit sector often wear many hats. Those who lead volunteers are a bit more unique because they tend to have to wear more hats.

Just like a body, an organization has many parts, each vital. A volunteer manager may not be the “brains” of an organization, ie. the CEO or head decision makers, but they often hold the heart of the organization in their hands and one cannot survive without the other

Overseeing a “staff” of upwards of hundreds of people, keeping them engaged and feeling relevant with only “pay” being the guarantee they know they are making an impact in the community and are appreciated for doing so, is no easy task. It requires they have a lot more “hats” in their closet than most. I have listed just a few below. Take a look:

1. Volunteer Managers are Trainers. They understand that the best way for volunteers to make impact is to empower them with the information with the vital training they need to be comfortable helping the community they serve.

2. Volunteer Managers Jugglers. On a given day they have no less than 5 balls in the air, but handle it with style and grace. Often, you have no idea what they are balancing.

3. Volunteer Managers are like Hurdlers. They see obstacles coming, but handle them in stride and keep on going until the task is done.

4. Volunteer Managers are like Gardeners. They are responsible for growing and nurturing their team, but also know when they need to prune their team (ie “part ways with a volunteer “) to keep the team healthy so it can grow.

5. Volunteer Managers are like the Wind. You don’t often see them, but you feel the effect and impact that their work has on an organization.

6. Volunteer Managers are like Truck Drivers. They are responsible for precious cargo and are in it for the long haul.

7. Volunteer Managers are like Nurses. They breathe life into their volunteers, who are vital to nonprofits, to help their organizations keep a pulse on their communities.

8. Volunteer Managers are like Air Traffic Controllers. They navigate near collisions on a daily basis but you would never know it. At the end of the day everything works out and volunteers still feel appreciated and want to keep coming back.

9. Volunteer Managers are Conductors. They can see and understand how the importance of each individual skill works together to orchestrate and create something beautiful.

10. Volunteer Managers are Judges and Mediators. They are KEENLY aware that there is ALWAYS 2 sides to a story and make sure to hear BOTH sides before making a decision that, more often than not, is a win/win for all sides!

11. Volunteer Managers are Photographers and Videographers. Always on the quick draw to capture a picture or video to memorialize the impact volunteers have and to make sure they have images that potential volunteers can relate to that reinforce “you are welcome here.”

12. Volunteer Managers are Marketing/Advertising Professionals. Using creative ideas and strategies to spread the word about their organization leveraging the most powerful form of advertising: Word of mouth from happy and appreciated volunteers.

13. Volunteer Managers are Event Planners. From Volunteer appreciation to volunteer recruitment events, you will volunteer managers crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s to make sure the event goes off without a hitch. They are extremely organized people; they have to be. If they miss a detail it could negatively impact a volunteer and that is the last thing they want to do!

14. Volunteer Managers are like Firefighters. They are constantly extinguishing fires great and small…especially on event day!

15. Volunteer Managers are Customer Service Reps. They are constantly guiding volunteers to the information they need and occasionally the recipient of misplaced anger, but handling it with grace.

16. Volunteer Managers are Mentors, ESPECIALLY those where #internships and managing #interns fall under their job description. From giving advice on how to be a professional in the workplace for an intern, to teaching how to gain institutional-buy in to a fellow colleague, Volunteer Managers have no problem sharing their wisdom.

17. Volunteer Managers are Matchmakers. They match skilled volunteers with volunteer positions that accentuate those skills allowing the volunteer to feel like they have purpose which encourages them to keep coming back.

18. Volunteer Managers are Writers. Communication is key! From e-mails with detailed instructions, to newsletters and blog posts (that often go unread because volunteers would rather ask them because they like to chat), Volunteer Managers have probably written a few novels.

19. Volunteer Managers are like Lawyers. They can defend the honor of their volunteers and the immense value of the support they provide to the organization.

20. Volunteer Managers are Data Analysts. They are tracking orientation numbers, retention numbers, hours donated and impact made often to prove to colleagues, the organization and the community that volunteers have value, predict trends and oh yeah and to keep the grant money coming!

21. Volunteer Managers are like Accountants. Many fell into this position and had to go to managing personal checkbooks to managing a department budget overnight with no business accounting experience! Yet, they rise to the occasion!

22. Volunteer Managers are Tech support. Many of us work with the older generation and get to teach them about what e-mail is and how to use it. BTW, Volunteer Manager’s are also some of the MOST PATIENT people you will ever meet. Have you ever had to explain how an e-mail works or how to sign up for something online. Wasn’t it rewarding when they finally got it?

23. Volunteer Managers are Recruiters. They have the gift of sharing how one person can make a sizeable impact in their community and are masters of storytelling in such a magnetic way that people are drawn to their organizations to support and expand reach and impact.

24. Volunteer Managers are like Chefs: They know just how to pull together the right group of volunteers to spice up an event or project and help make it a success!

25. Volunteer Managers are Cheerleaders (my personal favorite of course) You may have even heard some people refer to them as Volun-CHEER Leaders. They are constantly encouraging volunteers and reminding them that we are on their side and, especially in those moments when they don’t feel like they can accomplish the task at hand. They are encouragers and uplifter of spirits and some of the most inspiring people you will ever meet.

So, in honor of National Volunteer Manager Appreciation Day on November 5th, be sure to show the person in your organization who leads the volunteers, the person who is “helping others help”, a little encourgaement with a 101 Affirmations for Volunteer Manager Journal (disponible en español) , and of course, tip your hat to them for all they do.

Nicole R. Smith Sitting in a chair cross-legged wearing a gray dress, holding an orange purse on her lap, leaning on it and smiling into the camera.

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, workforce development specialist, published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams and the 101 Note-taking Affirmation Journal Series, world renowned motivational speaker, bloggerpodcast host of From The Suggestion Box; Navigating Feedback The Good The Bad and the Say Whaaatttt??? and dancer. She earned her Bachelor’s degree via a Division I full-ride track scholarship and after graduating, she founded Step It Up! Inc., a non-profit dance organization that allowed her to perform for audiences nationwide and used dance to teach teamwork to kids in after school programs.

Her experience in sports entertainment, radio, TV, the performing arts and social services has spanned nearly 20 years covering the Chicago, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami and Orlando markets. She has danced and cheered for four Professional and Semi-Professional sports teams, has prepared more than 800 interns to enter the workforce and has inspired crowds upwards of 2000.

She has been a proud mentor for the Tessitura Network’s Early Career Development program for the past three years which is a free program dedicated to diversifying Arts leadership. She has the opportunity to mentor young arts professionals of Latino, Black and Asian decent to help them not only find their voice , but express it in the board rooms in arts organizations.

She was a contributing writer for The Life of a Single Momfor two years and has been published in several industry journals including The Volunteer Management Report, Human Capital Leadership Magazine and Chronicle Philanthropy Magazine.

As a nod to her belief in continuous education, in 2021 she earned her certification in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace from the USF Muma College of Business.I

She has received several accolades to include being named in the Marquis Who’s Who for professionals, receiving an Emerging Leader Award from Alive Impact Awards for Volunteer Engagement Professionals, awarded the Amplifying Voices Award from United Latinas, being listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You”and being selected as one of Legacy Miami’s Most Prominent and Influential Black Women In Business and Industry of 2019.

She is passionate about giving back to her community. and does so by sitting on the Boards of theAssociation for Leaders In Volunteer Engagementand and is aformer Board Member of the Arts and Business Council of Miami and Ageless CHIC Magazine



Nicole R. Smith

Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mom, workforce development specialist, published author, dancer, and motivational speaker. Her experience spans 20 yrs.