Identify the Right Project Manager

Before kicking off your project, it is important to identify the person on your staff who will serve as the point person for the volunteer(s). This person will manage the project and ensure it moves forward according to scope and timeline, convey your organization’s vision to the volunteer(s), provide inroads to additional staff and resources, and make key project-related decisions.

You might be inclined to default to the individual on your team who manages traditional volunteer engagements. Keep in mind that pro bono initiatives require a different set of skills than traditional volunteer management, often unique to the project that you’re undertaking.

This role is also a great professional development platform for a staff member, presenting the opportunity to hone project management skills, gain exposure to new sectors, and deepen functional area expertise. Keep this development potential in mind as you consider the following factors.

The staff member who serves in this role should have:

  • Significant exposure to and command over the project focus area (e.g. IT, marketing, HR) accompanied by an understanding of how the project feeds broader strategic goals.
  • Capacity to respond quickly to volunteer questions or requests to ensure project momentum. (Hint: your Executive Director may not be the best choice for this reason!)
  • The ability to quickly make or facilitate decisions needed to move the project forward.
  • Comfort providing feedback and pushing back if the volunteers are off course on their deliverable.
  • The trust of your staff to know what’s best for your project and your organization. (Hint: this usually rules out your summer intern or new hires.)
  • A long-term interest in the deliverable itself. Usually, it is best to have the staff member who will ultimately roll out and “own” the product have a hand in its creation.
  • A knack for relationship development and an ability to cultivate your volunteer(s) to be engaged with your organization over the long-term.