Managing volunteers and paid workers in a nonprofit operation Articles uri icon

publication date

  • October 2023

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0025-1909

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1526-5501


  • Some nonprofit organizations (NPOs) manage a complex workforce composed
    of a mix of volunteers, part-time workers, and full-time workers. We study the NPO"s
    finite-horizon staffing problem to determine the optimal initial staff planning decisions
    and per period optimal hiring and assignment decisions given a budget, capacity constraints,
    and an uncertain supply of volunteers and part-time workers. Our main goal is to
    solve this problem in a way that is effective and easy to implement while obtaining interesting
    managerial insights. To this end, we first demonstrate that the optimal staffing policies
    are computationally challenging to identify in general. However, we demonstrate that
    a prioritization assignment policy and a hire-up-to policy for part-time workers can be conveniently
    applied and are close to optimal. These policies are, in fact, optimal under staff
    scarcity and staff sufficiency. In our numerical analysis, we study the value and impact of
    the general optimal solution that considers flexibility and turnover of part-time workers
    versus the prioritization assignment policy and a constant hire-up-to policy that omit flexibility
    and turnover behaviors. We further suggest two easy-to-implement heuristics and
    theoretically analyze them and run a numerical performance study. We observe that both
    heuristics have low relative optimality gaps. Finally, we extend our analysis by studying
    how the optimal policy varies under three different practical considerations: a concave
    social value objective, nonzero volunteer costs, and dynamic volunteer behaviors.


  • Business


  • volunteers; staffing problem; nonprofit operations management; stochastic dynamic programming