Volunteers have the unique capability to bolster your organization and generate excitement and engagement within your wider community. Volunteer work often contributes to greater long-term sustainability because it can provide a reliable source of support during challenging times.
Managing volunteers successfully requires careful planning and forethought. When you focus on optimizing your volunteer program from the ground up, you can give it the foundation it needs to be successful.
Whether you’re interested in creating a brand-new volunteer management program or enhancing your current program with more effective management strategies, you’re in the right place!
In this guide, we’ll review the essential elements of a strong volunteer management program, including:
- Volunteer Recruitment
- Volunteer Communication
- Volunteer Engagement
- Volunteer Retention
With these guiding principles, you’ll be able to craft a program that addresses your organization’s unique needs and offers volunteers a rewarding experience. These tips can apply to any type of organization looking to manage volunteers, whether you’re working with a business, nonprofit, school or university, or other community organization. Let’s dive in!
1. Volunteer Recruitment
The foundation of your volunteer management program is, of course, the volunteers. Without a strong volunteer base, your volunteer management program won’t truly be able to get off the ground.
Your organization can entice interested supporters to become volunteers with a strong recruitment strategy. According to Galaxy Digital’s volunteer recruitment guide, elements of a successful recruitment strategy include:
- Issuing a strong call-to-action based on your mission statement. Your message to prospective volunteers should be clear, concise, and compelling. When creating your volunteer call-to-action statement, be sure to focus on your organization’s mission statement and goals. Include information about why you’re enlisting volunteers and what you’ll accomplish with volunteer help.
- Creating opportunities that volunteers want to participate in. Consider how you can make your volunteer experience more exciting or enticing for participants. For example, can you offer valuable training certifications or networking opportunities? Can you incorporate a social element into your opportunities? Lean into these aspects of your volunteer program to recruit a wider range of potential volunteers.
- Promoting opportunities strategically. Post your volunteer opportunities on several different channels, from social media to your website to email newsletters. If you’re searching for skilled volunteers, you can use platforms like LinkedIn to conduct more targeted outreach. Focus your outreach messages on the unique aspects of your volunteer program and the impact volunteers have on your mission.
- Making registration as easy as possible. If someone is inspired enough to volunteer with your organization, you don’t want to lose them simply because of a long or complex registration process. Volunteer management software platforms can help simplify the signup process and even recommend specific opportunities based on volunteers’ skills and interests.
Your organization’s outreach strategy serves as a first impression for prospective volunteers to get a taste of your program. With these recruitment strategies, you’ll be able to get in touch with supporters who care about your mission and are willing to stay invested over the long term.
2. Volunteer Communication
A strong communication strategy can make the difference between volunteers lapsing or continuing to engage with your organization.
As Double the Donation’s guide to volunteer management points out, your organization’s relationship with its supporters shouldn’t be a one-way street. Craft a volunteer communication strategy that distributes necessary information about your program while also allowing volunteers to send in feedback and questions.
With a volunteer management system, you’ll centralize communications and keep track of your interactions with volunteers. Your volunteer management software can assist in the following areas:
- Sending automated notifications and reminders so volunteers don’t miss out on any opportunities. This can help boost volunteer attendance at events and shifts
- Sending volunteer feedback surveys so supporters can voice opinions. Listening to and incorporating supporter feedback shows volunteers that they’re valuable members of your team. It also gives volunteers a larger stake in your program’s success, which can transform them into engaged long-term advocates.
- Segmenting supporters into groups so you can send relevant information to each segment. For instance, you might create segments for lapsed volunteers, long-time volunteers, and new volunteers, and then craft tailored messages for each group. Supporters are more likely to interact with your messages when the content is highly relevant to their interests or skills.
With a strategic approach to volunteer communications, your team can save time and effort by automating some communications and streamlining others. Volunteers will appreciate your efforts to keep them in the loop without overwhelming their inboxes with irrelevant information.
3. Volunteer Engagement
Just because you successfully captured supporters’ attention initially doesn’t automatically guarantee that they’ll stay involved with your organization for the long run. After recruiting volunteers, you’ll want to turn your focus toward how you’ll keep supporters engaged and excited about continuing to support your mission. After all, it’s much more cost-effective and beneficial to retain your current volunteers than continue to recruit new ones.
Consider the following volunteer engagement ideas:
- Training: Offer volunteers ongoing training opportunities to help them acquire valuable soft or hard skills. Perhaps you offer them a CPR certification class as part of their volunteer training. Alternatively, you might focus on helping volunteers develop soft skills such as public speaking or letter writing.
- Volunteer grants: Many companies offer volunteer grants, also known as dollars-for-doers programs. In these programs, companies make donations to eligible nonprofits after their employees have volunteered for a specified number of hours with those organizations. Supporters are often highly motivated by these opportunities because they can maximize their impact for your cause without having to open their own wallets. Promote these opportunities to supporters and encourage them to investigate their eligibility.
- Frequent progress reports: After contributing hours of their time to your cause, volunteers want to know the impact of their support. By sending frequent progress updates, you can keep volunteers in the loop on what their work has accomplished. Let volunteers know that they helped cook Thanksgiving dinner for 50 local families, or planted 300 trees over the last month to help beautify the community square. This keeps volunteers connected to the cause and excited to continue reaching new goals.
- Prizes: If all else fails, free stuff can be a strong motivating factor to keep volunteers interested in what you have to offer. Offer supporters incentives based on the number of hours they’ve volunteered, such as t-shirts, tote bags, or water bottles. You can also host random giveaways for your top volunteers with bigger prizes like gift baskets or event tickets.
Prioritizing ongoing volunteer engagement is an effective strategy for maintaining volunteer support over the long haul. By investing as much energy into volunteers as they invest into your cause, you can build a strong, mutually beneficial partnership.
4. Volunteer Retention
As a volunteer coordinator, volunteer retention is your ultimate goal. A high volunteer retention rate means your organization has successfully maintained the support of engaged and active supporters who champion your cause. These are the supporters who will help your organization weather any storms and maintain resiliency.
Volunteer retention is the last piece of your volunteer administration puzzle. Improve your retention efforts using the following strategies:
- Track volunteers’ hours. Recording volunteer hours allows your organization to maintain accurate records on volunteer impact while providing convenience to volunteers. Supporters may need to track hours for school requirements or to be eligible for volunteer grants through their employer. Through your volunteer management software, you can maintain accurate volunteer hour logs.
- Match volunteers with opportunities that align with their skills or interests. Update your volunteer database with each volunteer’s preferences and skillsets. Then, you can reach out to them with opportunities that align with their interests. When supporters find fulfillment and satisfaction from their roles, they’ll be more likely to continue volunteering.
- Thank volunteers frequently and genuinely. Expressing gratitude to volunteers is one of the easiest, most effective ways to maintain their engagement. You can thank them the same way you would thank your donors. Reach out by email, phone, or direct mail, shout them out on social media, or offer a token of appreciation such as a free t-shirt.
With a strategic volunteer retention approach, you won’t let any volunteers fall through the cracks or go unappreciated. You’ll be able to make each volunteer feel recognized and appreciated while maintaining a strong base of support for your program.
By optimizing your approach to volunteer recruitment, communication, engagement, and retention, you can create a well-rounded, strong volunteer management program. If you need help organizing your program information, volunteer management software can provide an effective framework for managing volunteers and keeping track of important data. Use the tips above to take your own volunteer management program to the next level!