I teach a lot of workshops around the country for nonprofit organizations. Quite often I find the opportunity to ask attendees what resources they currently need. More often than not the #1 and #2 responses are unrestricted operating dollars and volunteers.  Wow!!!

When I first started hearing this response I was not at all surprised about the operating dollars, but I was a bit shocked at the number or organization needing volunteers.

I’m very excited to hear your feedback on how you treat individuals who express interest in working with or helping your organization in a volunteer capacity. I, myself, have had the worst time trying to volunteer over the past few years. I wonder if others have any of these experiences as well.

I have had several organization I was excited to help in a variety of capacities.  I know each organization expressed needing volunteers, I volunteered, expressed my own interest to board members, contacted the organizations via email and/or phone and simply never heard back. Three specific organizations I reached out to on numerous occasions in a variety of ways and no one ever got back with me. I was stupefied.

This month it happened again. I had a group tell me they needed help, I offered to volunteer and they didn’t engage me. I asked point-blank on a phone call if they needed help at an event and they said they had it covered.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong in expressing my interest in helping, but apparently it’s something!

I’m a hard worker, have lots of resources, time and ability to travel, give, etc. Heck, I have flown to Texas twice this year just to volunteer for a weekend with a group there that I am passionate about. Knowing all of this, I began to wonder this week what the structure is around volunteering for many agencies. Is there a specific process in place for recruiting volunteers, is there a volunteer training or orientation, is there a particular contact for volunteers to communicate with, etc.?

I started asking other friends of mine and found that my experiences are not terribly unique.  A family member mentioned their desire to volunteer with an organization (of which they use to be a board member) and their frustration when there was never anything for them to do when they arrived on-site. Always piddly work that seemed more like busy work because no one had taken time to really find meaningful work that needed to be done. Often there was nothing to do at all!  What?! 

I bring this issue to light not only to share my frustration, but to share my awe at that fact that most nonprofits I meet express the need for more volunteers, but many have no plan for how to utilize volunteers when they appear.

What are you doing to gain and retain volunteers? If you had 5 volunteers walk through your door tomorrow, would you have anything for them to do? Would you know where to send them or if they needed a training or orientation? How do you communicate with volunteers? Who do you refer people to if they call and want to get engaged with your organization? How do you appreciate your volunteers? How do you track volunteer hours and do you know the value of volunteer hours for budgeting purposes?

If you don’t know the value of volunteer hours, I encourage you to learn that and use it in your budgeting process.  Click here to learn the value of volunteer time.

If you don’t know why you need to be including volunteer hours in your budget, or how to incorporate them to reflect ‘actual’ costs for programs, join us for this webinar.

Having a plan is vital to engaging those who are interested in volunteering.  I would love if you could share your ideas and experiences to this topic.  You can do that on our Facebook page here.

In a related blog from earlier this year, learn how to Bless and Release Volunteers HERE.