Volunteers are the unsung heroes of the nonprofit world. They do everything from fundraising, event organizing, admin, and assisting the paid staff with their day-to-day work. They bring a strong passion and incredible set of skills to your organization, helping you increase your impact.
In addition to all the work they do, your volunteers are often your most significant supporters by promoting your work to their family and friends. To summarize, your volunteers bring an incredible amount of value to your nonprofit, so you must keep them engaged.
Having a strong volunteer management program in place is the key to high-performing volunteers. Volunteer management goes beyond scheduling and assigning roles. It's an experience meant to build relationships with your volunteers for the long-term, starting at the registration process to appreciate them for their time and dedication to your cause.
However, managing your volunteers is not an easy task. It might seem like there is too much to do for your managers and so little time between scheduling, orientation, and communication.
It is a lot to do, but putting in the time and resources for a healthy volunteer management program can pay off huge in the long run. It can attract and retain volunteers, and with the right system in place, free up time for your staff. We want to show you tips and tools to streamline your volunteer management process leading to happier volunteers and more relaxed staff.
Our guide will go over the best way to manage your volunteers, such as...
What Goes Into Volunteer Management?
Volunteer Recruitment and Onboarding
You need to find volunteers to manage them! The recruitment process should focus on connecting with invested supporters in your cause, promoting your opportunities and creating a new volunteer strategy. That could involve paperwork, police checks, training or a short interview.
After finding new volunteers, another essential step is making sure they feel confident in their new position. This could mean taking the time to get to know them and matching their skills to a job they would excel in.
You need to be in contact and engaging with your volunteers. To have an effective volunteer program, you need to create a communication plan that allows you to deliver essential information and respond to your volunteers with ease. Remember, you're building a relationship with your recruits, so there needs to be 2-way communication. Volunteer management software can help make this more comfortable for you by having communications centralized to one application.
Giving Back to Your Volunteers
Recognizing your volunteer's hard work is just as important as supporting them on the job. No one wants to feel like they are under-appreciated, so taking the time to thank your volunteers will make a difference. If people don't feel valued, they will leave. You can do something simple like a handwritten note, take it a step further, send a care package, host a thank-you dinner, or create a video. Building a community of your volunteers creates an important feeling of belonging and a shared focus on your cause.
Volunteer Recruitment and Onboarding
There are many people out there who are passionate about your cause. You have to look for them in the right places! You can never have enough help, and because life is busy and your volunteers may have other commitments, you should have enough volunteers to allow for swift changes in scheduling.
So how do you find and train those volunteers?
Create A Webpage
One great way to find volunteers is to have a page on your site dedicated to them. You can use it to list opportunities, offer more information and the benefits of working with your organization. If you don't already have a dedicated page, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to make your volunteer program shine.
Once you give information on your organization, you need to find a way interested people can contact you. There is always the option to list a phone number or email address, but a contact form can be an even better way to get to know your future volunteers.
If you have volunteer management software, it should be reasonably easy to create and embed a contact form into your website. Using it, you can gather information on their skills, areas of interest, and basic info like their name, number or email.
Collecting this information makes it easier when getting back to them and can even save you time in the long run because you can see how they can see fit into your organization. You can also use that information to segment volunteers, which we will get into later on.
Creating a Form
When creating a form, don't ask too many questions or personal information. You don't want people to lose interest and abandon your nonprofit before they even got a chance to step through the door. Keep it simple by collecting necessary information along with 1-3 additional questions. So you could ask for:
- Their name
- Phone number
- Email Address
- Skillset and,
- Area of interest
That information alone can give you a lot to work with and make your first meeting a lot smoother. If you require more info like a resume or a background check, you can create a separate form for those volunteers. Once you have the information you need, it's effortless to go through your volunteer management system and sort applicants based on your data. Also, if you plan on providing your volunteers with meals or with t-shirts, be sure to ask about dietary preferences and clothing sizes, or other practical questions you may need (serving it right? Heaving lifting, etc.)
Be Realistic With Your Job Descriptions
You want to make sure that your potential volunteers are aware of their roles and responsibilities beforehand. If you need a specific time commitment or experience for a position, it's best to include it within your job description.
Creating A Volunteer Onboarding Plan
You have to make sure your organization is ready to take on volunteers, and that means having a plan in place, so recruits feel accounted for and know who to turn to if they need guidance.
This is also a great place to introduce your COVID protocols. Share how you plan on keeping your volunteers safe and what’s expected of your volunteers if working on site.
Channel Their Strengths
Taking the time to get to know your volunteers and match them with a position they will enjoy is essential. You want to have a good group of volunteers and be able to allow them to shine.
In addition to having a form, take the time to meet with your new volunteer for a 10 min interview. This is where you can dive deeper into their interest, see how they would like to be a part of your nonprofit and allow them to ask questions as well.
That does take some time to do, so if you don't have the resources to do so, you can send new volunteers a survey or have a more senior volunteer lead the process.
The first day of any new job can be nerve-wracking, so take a few minutes to show new volunteers around and introduce them to key members of your staff. This way, they have some time to settle in and feel comfortable.
Keep People Engaged
We have a whole section on engagement later on in this guide, but it does start in the recruitment process. Keep volunteers updated on their role or next steps. Having a mailing list for volunteers is another excellent way to send regular updates specifically to them.
Communicating With Your Volunteers
Communication is all about keeping your volunteers engaged with your nonprofit and your cause. Reaching out to them solely for volunteer work is not enough. Like your donors, you need to foster a relationship and have them feel invested in your nonprofit.
The success of your volunteer program relies on effective communication. To keep volunteers engaged and excited about your organization, you have to update them on your progress and show appreciation for their work.
There are plenty of ways to stay in contact with your volunteers, so you mustn't settle on just one. Each communication channel has a different purpose and can tell a different story. Using them together will ensure you're getting the right message to the right people at the right time.
General or Committee Meetings
Meeting with your volunteers is essential to any project. If you have a dedicated group of volunteers planning an event or big project, it's critical to check in with them regularly.
Start by holding a meeting for those interested, so they have an opportunity to learn more about the role, ask questions and express their interests. You also have the chance to meet with each potential volunteer and get a sense of what their skills and interests are.
Once you have formed your committee, it's vital to have regular meetings to manage progress and offer support. This is done best with a schedule with a routine meeting time, so everyone can plan to be there in advance.
You may already have a newsletter for your donors, but your volunteers can benefit from one as well! Sharing a newsletter with them is a great way to keep updated on your nonprofit's activities and accomplishments. It's also an opportunity to highlight some of your most dedicated volunteers! You can send a print newsletter, but digital newsletters are also a great option and easy to do if you have a volunteer management system in place!
An App or Webpage
More and more nonprofits are building apps and webpages specifically for volunteers. Having all of your communications centred on one platform is a great way to keep everything organized and as efficient as possible. Volunteers can go to the app or website, log in and see the latest job opportunities, schedule or check progress on any projects. They can also check themselves in if they are volunteering in person, to allow you to keep track of their hours and their accomplishments.
If someone is dedicating their time and energy to your cause, you should take the time to get to know them personally. For some more extensive programs, this may be hard to do, but scheduling a 10-minute phone call or meeting can go a long way. It doesn't have to be a formal discussion, just a check-in to see how they're doing, how they are enjoying the work and let them know you appreciate their time.
Set Clear Expectations
When onboarding a new volunteer, it's essential you communicate your expectations. If you need them to download an app or register online, make sure they get set up on their first day. Letting people know how you will communicate is just as important as the messages themselves. If you prefer to communicate through text and email, let them know to check those channels regularly.
Be Concise And Consistent
Keep your messages clean, simple and to the point, only sending to relevant volunteers. If you have a small group working on an event, segment those volunteers into a smaller group. If you collected data from the registration process like skills or interests, you could segment volunteers for specific opportunities.
Segmenting is an incredibly effective way to keep communication clear and make volunteers feel appreciated because they are given opportunities that suit them.
Be Open to Feedback
Your volunteers can offer valuable feedback on your program, so use it to your advantage! Consider issuing a satisfaction survey once a year, asking your volunteers about their experience and if they have any suggestions on how to make the program better.
Even reaching out in a quick email is an efficient way to make the program better. It also helps volunteers feel appreciated because their word is taken into consideration.
Use Volunteer Management Software
Volunteer management is a complete game-changer when it comes to communication. Driven's Volunteer Management Solution provides tools that help with volunteer recruitment, scheduling, and messaging all in one place.
Our software allows you to stay organized and offers a mobile app so you and your volunteers can communicate anywhere at any time. Now that everything has gone digital, it's been more challenging to collect police checks and signatures, but our software allows you to track and gather those documents from our app.
Giving back to your volunteers is so important. Recognizing the effort they put into your organization show that you want them to stick around. Thanking your volunteers both empowers and engages them and is the key to building a strong group of lifetime supporters.
Best Practices for Thanking Volunteers
The 3 most important things you need to remember are to
- Be sincere
- Be timely and
- Be consistent
You need to be thanking your volunteers in a way that makes sense to them and do it promptly. If you wait too long or make it too general, it will come off as an afterthought, and no one wants that.
Just as you have a plan for onboarding and communication, you need one for recognition. Depending on your volunteer program's size and scale, it could look different for every organization, but it needs to start with your volunteers.
Include any measures around their accomplishments, i.e. how many pounds of food did they lift to help how many family’s? How many hours/kilometers of dog walking? What is the value of administrative time donated (i.e. $25,000 in administrative costs donated from office volunteers).
Start With Values
What are their interests? Why do they care about your organization? Use this as a guide to how you will show appreciation in a unique way to them.
Set a Goal
What is the purpose of your actions? Is it just to show thanks, or are you focusing on retention? Or maybe you want to attract new volunteers by demonstrating a positive experience. Choose an objective and use it to lead change and decide on how you will measure your success.
This is pretty self-explanatory, you need to set a budget. If you are tight, you can always try reaching out and partnering with local businesses as a way to support your volunteers and community.
Suppose you have a big group of volunteers helping out at an event or with a big project. In that case, you can automatically use your volunteer management software to send a thank-you email to participants. You can have it go out the next morning, or when you reach a goal, it helps take some of the pressure off of you, and you're able to segment your volunteers, so everyone gets the right message easily.
Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
Think about your volunteers and what they would like when thanking them. You should also consider segmenting your volunteers so they get the appreciation they deserve. Chances are a volunteer who has been with you for 10 years will receive different communication than one who has just been to an event or two.
Use this list to spark some ideas and add your twist to make it memorable!
- Handwritten note or card
- Pizza party or potluck
- Gift basket or care package (bonus points if you partner with local businesses to make it)
- Gift card or certificates
- Video or phone call
- Featuring them in your newsletter, website or social pages
- Linkedin endorsement or letter of recommendation
- Compensate for their transit or gas for events
- Give them a call or visit them
- Remember their birthday and any other special milestones
Tips and Strategies for Better Volunteer Management
Set Smart Goals
Specific, measurable, attainable and realistic. That is what smart goal setting is all about. Having a SMART Goal for your volunteer management program will help you focus on growth because you have a motivator for your actions and a measure for success.
You can focus on retaining volunteers, or growing your program or increasing volunteer engagement. Whatever your decision, it needs to be specific and measurable so that you know how to determine success.
Speaking of goal-setting, increasing engagement should be a key part of your management process. High engagement will lead to lower turnover and training cost, increased engagement, more visibility and the chance to turn volunteers into donors.
Find Volunteer Management Software That Can Do It All
You can use free tools and resources to manage your volunteer team, but it often isn't enough. A volunteer CRM can help save admin hours and integrate with your donor CRM to give you valuable data on your supporters.
Using free tools often means jumping from tab to tab and manually organizing information on different platforms. A CRM takes all of that and centralizes it
into one system, allowing you to not only stay organized but track and automate your process.
Free Tools and Resources For Managing Volunteers
Take advantage of some free software!
- For Communication: Slack is an excellent option for organizations that send many documents that need different channels to organize conversations. Whatsapp is another alternative that anyone can download on their phone and get added to a group chat.
- For Project Management: Trello is an excellent project manager that shows real-time progress, keeping track of everything on a board. You can set deadlines, tag members and move cards around as you please. It takes a few minutes to learn, but so worth it!
- For Forms and Surveys: Google forms are easy to use, and since the G Suite is free for nonprofits, it's the perfect tool to use when onboarding new volunteers.
Volunteer management is not easy but is a necessary part of any organization. Volunteers are a nonprofit's extended family and offer invaluable help that helps you and makes the world a better place.
Since COVID began, we saw endless acts of kindness and evidence of the power that volunteers have in our community. By investing in your volunteer program, you invest in a vital group of people who will give back to you tenfold.
Our team at Driven would love to help you refine your volunteer management process, so feel free to reach out to us
to discuss today!