Volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Your services, fundraising campaigns, and even day-to-day operations of your nonprofit can depend on volunteers.
And supporters are eager to help! According to an AmeriCorps published survey, “an estimated 30 percent of Americans or 77.9 million people reported they volunteered for an organization or association.”
So, if people want to volunteer, the key to garner willing volunteers is to:
While all nonprofits know they need volunteers, investing time and energy into building a formal program can naturally fall by the wayside. As you look to recruit and retain volunteers, a best practice is to put a strategic volunteer program in place.
Want to know how to be a recruiting and retention master?
Then settle in and learn all about the 4 fool-proof steps that will get you there!
A winning team of volunteers starts with having an actionable plan for recruitment. Before you get ready to post an announcement on all your social media channels for a casting call, take a moment to consider avenues in which you may already have access to some really great options.
Securing all of your volunteers might not be possible from these three areas, but it can be an excellent place to start.
BONUS TIP: Be prepared to respond to top excuses why someone may decline the ask and be prepared with incentives that debunk these reasons. Examples include:
Correction: Have the right people for the job before they start.
Getting people to sign-up to volunteer shouldn’t be where the recruitment starts and ends. You’d never post an open job position and call the spot filled with the first person that walks in the door! Filling volunteer positions should be given the same level of consideration. They’ve got big shoes to fill. You want to make sure you’ve got the right individuals lined up for the job.
Bottom line: Choosing volunteers is like hiring an employee.
Volunteers should be assigned to specific tasks based on their personality, attributes, and strengths. Taking the time to understand your volunteer’s strengths and weaknesses ensures you’ll both end up with a successful and pleasing outcome. There really is a job for everyone. It’s more about making sure you give the right job to the right person.
Pro-tip: You’ll also want to stay organized in the process. And we’re not talking sticky notes all around your desk. Digital tools ease the volunteer management process and a volunteer management CRM will help you keep track of volunteer assignments and create and manage volunteer shifts.
This doesn’t need to be a fancy document, but it should be very clear. One of the worst mistakes made with a new volunteer is sugar-coating their job description. Be upfront from the start with expectations.
Here are a few items to consider in your job description:
The more information provided from the beginning, the less chance of disgruntled volunteers later. Outlining expectations in a document they sign minimizes the risk that they missed something.
Now that you’ve got volunteer recruitment in the bag, let’s work on making sure they’re prepared to get the job done well.
The key to success here is to be:
Making a job seem more complicated than it is will send volunteers running. Start the training off slowly. Allow everyone to meet each other and understand their purpose and how the team will be working together. Pair down the training to be focused on their specific job to make sure you are not feeding them too much information. It may be more work for you, but holding shorter training sessions over an extended period will allow for better retention than a two-hour long crash course.
Employees contributing to your company need to feel knowledgeable, appreciated, and engaged, otherwise, chances are they won’t show up for work the next day. Volunteers are no different.
Help volunteers feel they’re doing something good for a greater cause. That, in essences, is their “paycheck.” Let them know they helped make a difference. Set them up for success from the get-go and they will be asking YOU if they can return for the next project!
It’s easy to fall into “all business” when you’re powering your mission. However, ensuring your volunteers are having a good time is essential!
Providing a little incentive to get the job done well can be a wonderful motivator and build camaraderie. When appropriate, develop some competitive challenges that get your volunteers striving to go above and beyond.
The last piece to the retention puzzle involves showing your appreciation. Remember, volunteers are not paid; so demonstrating your gratitude for their efforts is a top priority.
Appoint a volunteer coordinator who makes rounds and checks in on volunteers. Are they having any struggles? Is there anything they see that doesn’t seem right? Do they need any help?
Welcome your volunteer’s feedback on how they felt about their assignment or how the overall project could be improved. Demonstrate genuine gratitude by looking to implement changes based on their suggestions. Volunteers provide a valuable perspective on how successful your project was or could be in the future.
And most importantly, don’t let them fall off the radar when it’s all over! Keep them connected throughout the year.
It’s the little unexpected things that make someone feel special, appreciated, and a part of a team.
Volunteers are the backbone of your mission, and finding them can be hard work – which is why taking the time to find the right individuals is absolutely worth the effort. Once onboard, provide clear expectations, train them well with meaningful jobs, and show your appreciation for their efforts and your retention rate is sure to skyrocket!