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Community Recreation Non-Profit Resource Directory


In the world of non-profits the topic of supervision may refer to different areas, and applied in different situations. You may be a staff member supervising volunteers in a nonprofit agency, or you may be a volunteer member supervising other volunteers, such as a Chairperson, or Event Coordinator.

The levels of activities and variety may vary, but overall the ideology behind supervising remains the same. As with all other areas of the non-profit sector, professionalism is the key. Supervision is not only about conflict, but at no other time will professionalism be more appreciated than if conflict resolution is required.

Defining great supervision starts with a great job description, which gives the supervisor the “formula” or guideline for what or how to supervise.  

Supervision does not have to be fully dependent on one individual, but can encompass many staff and/or volunteers.  Using the example of a minor hockey association, the president oversees the daily operations, the vice president may oversee the coaching staff, the tournament director oversees the tournament volunteers, etc. 

The consistency in supervision is the skills required – problem solving, decision making, ability to provide feedback, and the ability to deal with discipline when required. Setting goals, observing behaviour and actions, and evaluation processes are just some of the activities included in supervision.

Supervision isn’t about doing for the volunteers, controlling or micro-managing; but rather supporting the volunteer and therefore helping the organization achieve its success. If the volunteers work alongside staff, neither party should see each other as a threat, but rather part of a team. By providing orientation, answering questions, and mentoring both staff and volunteers, you can achieve a positive environment.

Consider these five key points when looking at supervision:

  • Volunteers are real staff;
  • Volunteers are not free;
  • Supervision is about forming and maintaining relationships;
  • The functions of a supervisor can be shared; and
  • Supervision cannot be isolated from other aspects of volunteer program management.