As a nonprofit professional, every person who supports your organization is invaluable. From donors to event attendees to board members, each individual can make a huge difference in the work you get done. But there’s another group of supporters that deserves just as much attention: your volunteers.
Volunteers are the backbone of your nonprofit. They assist with administrative tasks, events, and other essential duties that might not otherwise get done quickly. That’s why it’s so important to successfully manage your volunteers. Just as you work to build relationships with donors and retain their support, you should be doing the same with volunteers.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of our top tips for successful volunteer management. They are:
- Use volunteer management software.
- Streamline your registration process.
- Focus on onboarding and scheduling.
- Ensure proper communication and recognition.
These secrets to success shouldn’t remain secret for long. If you want to improve your volunteer process and retain your awesome volunteers, read on!
1. Use volunteer management software.
There seems to be an app for everything, doesn’t there? Volunteer management is no exception. With nonprofit technology evolving at a rapid pace, there are many new and updated solutions that can aid in your fundraising efforts, events, and volunteer management.
Volunteer management software helps organize everything from recruitment and training to communication. When your entire process is streamlined and efficient, you’ll be able to keep your volunteer information organized and reduce the amount of volunteer turnover and no-shows.
More specifically, volunteer management software helps you:
- Recruit volunteers
- Facilitate the registration process
- Manage and schedule shifts
- Communicate with volunteers about a variety of topics
These capabilities, among others, will help you successfully manage your volunteer program while freeing up your staff’s time so you can continue fulfilling your mission. Be sure to also look for a volunteer management solution that offers a mobile app. This way, you’ll have even more accessible data and information that both your nonprofit and its volunteers can use.
In this day and age, cloud-based volunteer management software can make a huge difference in your organization’s efficiency. Consider making the investment so you can start benefiting more from the valuable time your volunteers put in.
2. Streamline your registration process.
Without an effective way to promote opportunities and recruit volunteers, you won’t end up with many registrations. That’s why streamlining this entire process is key.
According to the InitLive volunteer management guide, your goal should be to recruit volunteers and collect the information you need to place volunteers in roles relevant to their abilities. This means you should:
- Offer a simple sign-up process. Collect only the information you absolutely need in order to accurately process the application. It’s helpful if you leverage volunteer management software that offers logic-based questions to adjust the number of fields a volunteer must answer.
- Ask your volunteers what they would like to do. It’s important to actually ask your volunteers what they’re interested in. Do they want to assist with events? Do they have a special skill that would help with administrative tasks? Are they personable and love to talk with supporters on the phone? Make sure you understand where your volunteers would thrive so they’re happy with their tasks and remain engaged with your organization.
- Update your website. Your website is the first place supporters will go to find out about volunteer opportunities and available shifts. Keep your content updated at all times so volunteers are aware of everything going on at your nonprofit and don’t get frustrated by outdated information.
- Use multiple channels. Leverage multiple communication channels to promote your volunteer opportunities. Beyond your website, this includes email, social media, and even other nonprofit organizations that you may partner with. Send out letters or emails noting the volunteer positions you have available (and check out these templates for some inspiration!).
When your recruitment and registration process is easy to maintain, asks the right questions, and stays updated with your most recent opportunities, you’ll set your organization up for success. In turn, you’ll identify and recruit invaluable volunteers who will make a difference in your cause and stay on your team long term.
3. Focus on onboarding and scheduling.
First impressions are crucial, especially when it comes to volunteer management. That’s why focusing on your onboarding process, as well as your scheduling, is essential to retaining outstanding volunteers.
As you begin to train and schedule volunteers, you should:
- Effectively monitor the training process. This means assigning training shifts and tracking attendance to make sure each volunteer knows where to go and when. This will also ensure your volunteers don’t miss out on important information or training sessions.
- Make the training process straightforward. Have you ever had a volunteer show up for training and then never come back after that? It can be disheartening. For that reason, showing that you respect their time and interests can help retain new volunteers. For example, offer training modules and videos to allow volunteers to complete training on their own time. You can even keep track of those records in your volunteer database.
- Use scheduling software to organize and track shifts. Use software to streamline your scheduling process. Features like shift duplication and drag-and-drop functionality can make scheduling much easier for your team. Then, once you have a completed schedule, you can use the data from your volunteer signup process to assign shifts based on their interests and abilities.
As implied above, your volunteer management solution can help with a lot of tasks. But there’s even more of a reason to retain volunteers and lower your turnover rate: volunteer hours can be worth a lot of value. In fact, many companies offer monetary grants to organizations where their employees regularly volunteer.
If you focus on retaining volunteers, especially those who are eligible for volunteer grants through their employers, not only will you benefit from your volunteers’ assistance, but you’ll also reap the monetary value based on the number of hours they give. This is all the more reason to make sure your volunteer onboarding and scheduling go smoothly!
4. Ensure proper communication and recognition.
Your volunteers work tirelessly to help you serve your mission, so encouraging them to keep up the good work is incredibly important. But even more than that, properly communicating with and recognizing your volunteers can do wonders for engagement.
While it’s likely your volunteers aren’t in it for the recognition, it doesn’t hurt to show your appreciation! These gestures don’t have to be large and grand. For example, you can:
- Give them a shoutout on social media. Recognize volunteers who have gone above and beyond to help drive your efforts forward. This can be a simple post on Facebook or Instagram that highlights the tasks they’ve taken on. Doing this might even encourage other volunteers to take the same initiative!
- Send out thank-you cards or emails. Messages of appreciation don’t have to be a huge investment. Simply sending out periodic emails after an event or reaching a milestone to say thank you to your volunteers goes a long way. Handwritten cards around the holidays are also a nice touch to show your thanks for what they’ve done this year.
Recognizing your volunteers on a regular basis can definitely boost volunteer engagement and retention. But just as you cheer on your volunteers, it’s also essential that you communicate effectively with them, even when you’re not specifically recognizing their efforts.
Proper communication is key to retaining volunteers and ensuring they always have the information they need. The more you communicate, the better you’ll be able to keep track of your volunteers. Here are some tips you can implement to shape up your communication strategy:
- Segment your communications. According to the InitLive volunteer engagement guide, it’s important not to waste your volunteers’ time by making them read emails and communications that aren’t relevant to them. Segment your communication lists so the correct messages go out to the correct volunteers. For example, if a shift change only applies to one or two people, you can use your volunteer management solution to automatically send a notification to the relevant individuals.
- Offer chat capabilities. Use a platform that allows chat threads so your volunteers can ask questions and you can offer help as they go. This will ensure your volunteers have the tools and resources they need to succeed in their tasks.
- Collect feedback. Periodically collect feedback from your volunteers so you can pinpoint improvement opportunities for your program. Send out online surveys through your volunteer management app so it’s easy and convenient for volunteers to fill them out.
The fact that you should have all of these strategies in place shouldn’t be a secret at all. Communicate with your volunteers on a regular basis. Grow from their feedback and recognize their successes. After all, their success is your success.
Your nonprofit does a lot of good work, but it’s not without the help of essential volunteers. Whether you’re running an event, need administrative tasks taken care of, or have other issues that can be tackled by a qualified volunteer, managing your volunteers should be a top priority.
Volunteer management also means training your regular team to work with them and making the most of this relationship. If you’re looking for even more tips to acclimate your volunteers to your organization, check out the course on volunteers from this list of favorite free nonprofit courses. Good luck!
Guest Author: Cassandra Smallman
Head of Marketing at InitLive
Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.