Volunteers are vital to the success of your mission. They are a great asset to have, mainly because they are willing to provide their time and resources so you can maximize your service delivery while minimizing cost. They can also be a huge source of talent that organizations can use, but can’t always afford to employ.
Guiding and training your volunteers to help you deliver service is an important process to get up and running quickly. Because of that, it’s important for your onboarding process to be comprehensive and intuitive to accommodate the volume of new volunteers that will come through your doors. Volunteer turnover is a very common thing in the nonprofit space, so it’s important to have training that will facilitate quick and easy onboarding.
But, volunteer management isn’t just onboarding. Many nonprofits can forget the step between volunteer onboarding and release – the volunteer’s time helping them deliver service. And we get it. Seeing volunteers come and go can feel like a revolving door, and in many cases, it is. But, it’s crucial to remember some of the fundamentals of volunteer management so you can retain the maximum amount of volunteers and attract even more talent to your organization.
The most important thing to remember when you’re ramping up your volunteer management efforts is to make sure that you are putting a lot of effort into volunteer engagement. There needs to be an initiative in place that includes welcoming volunteers into your doors, giving them the time to get to know your organization, and, most importantly, getting time with your volunteers to get to know them. And, in order to do that, every person on your team has to understand that they have a role to play. Everyone from board members to program managers must be passionate about cultivating and retaining volunteers.
The scope of volunteer involvement within an organization hinges on the excitement of team members at all levels, as well as an organization’s readiness to support and partner with volunteers. In order to fully maximize the value of volunteers, your entire team structure needs to be involved in the process. We know that time is vital in the nonprofit world, but listening to what your volunteer is trying to achieve from giving back can make their time with you more worthwhile. And that will only lead to a better result from them. Jenné Meyers, CEO of Chicago Cares, stated it best: “research tells us that organizations that engage volunteers are better led, better managed, [and] more adaptable and capable of going to scale.”
Another good thing to note when you’re taking in volunteers is their motivation to come to your organization and volunteer in the first place. Instead of trying to gain relevant workforce experience, many volunteers are motivated to volunteer out of a need to give back to their community. They are cutting into their personal time to give their services to organizations and it’s even become such a societal priority that many for-profit companies are allocating work hours for their employees in order for them to volunteer. Knowing what motivates your volunteers to walk into your organization will help you engage with them.
Volunteer management is so much more than inputting people into a system, explaining their short-term role, and then waiting for them to be done. It all goes back to really cultivating the relationships you’re building with your volunteers. It’s important to get to know your volunteers, learn what makes them want to come in and help your mission, and ultimately, encourage all levels of your organization to be just as excited for volunteers to come in as the volunteers are to help. And once you engage with them, you can get even more support from your community.