Recently a program director reached out to Funding for Good to ask, “What can I give to our organization’s volunteers to encourage them to come back?”
She was confused about why even the most promising volunteers tended to disengage after a few months. Desperate to increase volunteer quality and consistency, her team brainstormed volunteer incentives such as gift cards, plaques, and other tangible items that might entice volunteers to return. While most volunteers agree it is nice to feel appreciated, gift cards and fancy plaques are not what most people want or need.
Why do most people volunteer?
Recent surveys reveal that “35% of volunteers do so to socialize with others in the community, 66% of volunteers give time to improve their community, and 83% contribute to a cause they care about.” (https://www.volunteerhub.com/
Although volunteer rates have remained relatively stable over the past two decades, organizations are still struggling to identify, recruit, and engage individuals who can offer the level of support needed to keep the mission moving forward.
The following volunteer management tips will help nonprofit leaders RECRUIT and RETAIN quality volunteers
1. Develop an intentional volunteer management system that establishes policies and procedures to recruit, screen, train, supervise, track, and acknowledge volunteers.
2. Get to know each volunteer.
Helpful conversation starters might include:
- How did you learn about our organization?
- When did you begin to engage with us for the first time?
- What about our mission most inspires you?
- What skills or passions would you like to apply to your volunteer work with us?
- What is your background/experience as it relates to ________?
- What is your current availability?
- What is your preferred method of communication? (phone call, text, email, social media)
- What is your “ideal volunteer experience”?
3. Honor each volunteer’s time and skills.
Make every minute count! Structure volunteer opportunities, so people are not left standing ideally or running frantically due to the organization’s lack of preparation. Most volunteers report that they are more likely to quit due to a lack of meaningful work, NOT because the organization asks too much.
4. Solicit volunteer feedback
People want and need to be heard. It is critical to craft targeted questions and collect feedback in a way that can drive future decision-making processes.
5. Share the impact of each volunteer’s work.
- Their time saves your organization money. It isn’t enough to say, “We depend on volunteers to keep this organization running.” Consider more specific statements: “Did you know that volunteers saved our organization more than $x in staff hours this year? THANK YOU!”
Visit: https://independentsector.org/ to find the current value of a volunteer hour in your state.
- Share specific impact data related to the programs the volunteer has supported. Quality volunteers need to know how they contribute to the mission, and stories and statistics motivate volunteers to do even more!
6. Empower volunteers.
Finally, it is essential to find diverse ways volunteers can use their skills, resources, and connections to support the organization. Most volunteers prefer tasks they can do without someone micromanaging every move.
Explore specific ways the organization can empower volunteers to use their creativity and contacts. If volunteers understand the mission, message, and priorities, it is easier to mobilize them. Volunteers who have proven themselves capable could and SHOULD be empowered to serve as ambassadors for your organizations, bring in new resources, and help supervise other volunteers.