Managing Main Street Volunteers

Volunteers are the heart and soul of local Main Street programs. Unfortunately, studies show that many nonprofits do not have the management practices in place to ensure that volunteers have a rewarding experience that encourages them to keep coming back to donate their time and expertise. Norma Ramirez de Miess, senior program officer and director of leadership development at the National Main Street Center, outlines important gaps in volunteer management in the April 25 edition of Main Street Story of the Week, gaps that local VMS organizations are working on and Virginia Main Street can help address. The important ones include:

  • Matching volunteer skills with appropriate assignments.
    VMS can help develop appropriate volunteer job descriptions, processes and support systems to ensure the volunteers experience a welcoming and fulfilling environment.
  • Recognizing the contributions of volunteers.
    Several VMS communities hold annual celebrations that recognize their volunteers and award a “Volunteer of the Year.”
  • Measuring the impact of volunteers annually to document the “value of volunteer time” as an in-kind contribution to your budget. ­
    VMS requires all designated VMS communities to collect and report this information and recognizes these contributions at the annual VMS Milestone Achievement Awards. The  value of the volunteer time in Virginia is estimated to be $24.49 per hour.
  • Providing training and professional development to volunteers and volunteer management training to paid staff.
    VMS organizes two annual trainings for local Main Street staff and volunteers and makes scholarships available for the National Main Street Conference and other downtown development-related conference and workshops around Virginia. Check out the upcoming VMS training opportunities and the training archive.
  • Providing strong leadership.
    Strong leadership is part personality and part effective planning and communication. To assist with this, VMS helps local Main Street organizations:

    • Develop an inspiring vision that captures the community’s hopes for the future of its historic commercial district;
    • Create an effective mission statement that clearly express the role of the Main Street organization in the downtown’s economic growth and development;
    • Develop a strong strategic plan at the board level that prioritizes the organization’s goals;
    • and, craft useful work plans for the committees that accurately identified human and financial needs of the organization.

Ramirez de Miess concludes by urging local Main Street organizations to raise the bar to build a more effective volunteer-driven structures by:

  1. Building a strong sense of ownership that results in a culture of volunteering that includes everyone in the community.
  2. Building an organizational culture that fosters and rewards community engagement.
  3. Building  a program worth volunteering  for.

Read Ramirez de Miess’ entire article, and take advantage of additional volunteer management materials on the National Main Street Center’s website at

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