This week’s post comes to us from guest blogger Rosanie Martinez, Head of Online Marketing at MyPaperCups.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of a nonprofit. They provide your organization with a strong support system, especially for administrative tasks and operations. Even for your fundraising efforts, they can provide much-needed help.
They’re also vital to raising publicity for your organization by helping spread the word about your mission. Volunteers do all these tasks because of their genuine care and affinity for your cause. As a nonprofit, one of the things you must make a priority is your volunteer program. You want to encourage people to not only volunteer for your organization but also feel compelled to stay on and help.
Today, it’s not enough to simply call out for volunteers and then treat them in the usual manner. Even though they’re volunteers, they will have certain expectations, such as:
- Recognition – Volunteers need to feel like their efforts are being recognized and appreciated.
- Social opportunities – Volunteers like social situations where they can make new friends and feel a part of a solid team.
- A voice – Volunteers like being given an avenue to voice their concerns, such as how they can better give their time and ideas or how they can help expand the reach of your organization.
- An easy process – Volunteers like processes to be streamlined, with fewer setbacks.
- Opportunities for personal growth – Volunteers like being given opportunities where they can grow as people and feel like they’re really making a difference.
Keeping these specific expectations in mind, here’s some advice on how you can enhance your volunteer program:
Prepare for good first impressions.
You don’t want to give your volunteers a bad first-day impression when they arrive at your organization. They should never find themselves sitting around for hours twiddling their thumbs because you didn’t have a plan worked out for them. Prepare everything prior to their arrival. Also, take the time to train and mentor them throughout their first day(s) so they’ll feel supported.
Give them interesting, meaningful work.
While your volunteers may be willing to do hard physical labor, you shouldn’t just give them mere grunt work for the sake of it or give them the tasks your full-time staff doesn’t want to do. Interview each of your volunteers and ask about their interests, skills, and qualifications. This way, you can actually make use of their abilities, which they’ll appreciate.
Recognize and appreciate volunteers for what they do.
You can come up with various creative and modern ways to show your appreciation, but nothing can ever beat a sincere thank you. A handwritten thank-you note will go a long way, or if you want to improve your bond with your volunteers, you can treat them to a delicious lunch. You can even give them small gifts that would normally be reserved for your donors, such as T-shirts, jackets, hats, notebooks, and even customized banner pens with the name of your organization on them.
Keep them aware and up-to-date on the situation.
Share updates with them about the project and the organization. For instance, tell success stories about your programs and clients. This adds a sense of fulfillment to the volunteer hours they’ve put in and makes them feel like they’re an important part of your organization. Which they are!
Provide them with a channel to directly communicate with you and vice versa.
Your volunteers will have concerns, and it makes everything more streamlined and efficient if they have someone they can direct their concerns towards. A lack of communication can make them feel like they’re being neglected, which is something you don’t want to let them feel. Assign a point person or coordinator who can get in touch with them and who can respond to any concerns they might have.
When you give your volunteers a rich and rewarding experience, they will, in turn, become your greatest champions, sharing your cause with other people and hopefully giving you some great referrals for future volunteers.
For some ideas on how you can best leverage your existing volunteers and cultivate new ones, reach out to us. We’d love to talk to you.