Volunteer Management

and Leadership Skills

Image: EA Philippines

This guide was compiled from resources from The Life You Can Save, LEAN, and the experience of several group organisers.

Organising a local group requires leadership skills. This section provides helpful tips on people skills in the context of building and maintaining a community, and delegating tasks.

Remember to continue building your career

Before launching into specific leadership skills, remember: while leading a group can be a very highly impactful role, don’t neglect your own mid to long-term career building. You will probably do community-building for only a few years, so make sure you are developing skills that are valuable in other roles as well. If you don’t already have your career planned out, go through 80,000 Hours’ content yourself. Write your own ABZ career plan, talk it through with other people, and modify it regularly.

Delegation

Don’t worry about asking for help or dividing responsibilities! People are often looking for ways to help and will be happy to do so.

Volunteers would also benefit from the role:

  • It improves their resume,

  • Helps them develop new skills, and

  • Makes them feel more connected to EA and the group.

Here are some tips on being a good delegator:

  • Be a considerate communicator. Deliver tasks as requests, not instructions. Thank people. Give constructive feedback and encouragement. Announce successes and jobs well done at meetings.

  • Always assign tasks to a specific person with specific due dates. To save people the embarrassment of forgetting, send out reminders halfway through the allotted time. These can be worded not as reminders, but as “do you need any more information about the task?”

  • Make contingency plans. Volunteers often have other priorities to balance, so expect that sometimes some things won’t get done, or done the way you initially wanted. Try planning ahead to mitigate this, and assign due dates well before the actual task deadline so you can provide feedback/assistance, reassign, or if needed do the task yourself.

  • If possible, give specific instructions. If you don’t have a clear idea of what exactly needs to be done, they probably won’t either, and if they are new volunteers they may not feel confident in making decisions. Let them know how much ownership they have over the tasks. If a task is to be completed on a computer, making a screencast video of yourself explaining and starting a task can be much faster than trying to type instructions, and the volunteer can review the video several times if needed. (If you don’t have an app for this on your computer, try free websites like screencast-o-matic or Loom).

  • When possible, bundle unglamorous tasks with glamorous ones. Some tasks, like data entry, can be boring. Keep up morale by bundling them with more interesting tasks that excite the volunteer and are fit for their skills

  • Rotate tasks. Sometimes people enjoy having a particular role, but many would like to see the responsibilities shared– so check in regularly with volunteers, and consider having a policy of rotating tasks. Some groups find that the roles are sometimes gendered (e.g. sometimes women take the role of cooking more often than men do), so be aware of who is most often doing the role and encourage new people to step up.

  • Encourage people to take initiative and pursue their own ideas. People are usually far more motivated to action their own ideas rather than someone else’s, so if a group member comes up with a good idea, encourage them to take it on as a project!

Handing over leadership

The best leaders help upskill people to the point where they can take over the leadership role. Advice on making a smooth leadership transition is in the Handing Over Leadership section.

Reading recommendations

These books have been recommended by group organisers:

Here are other relevant resources: