Most nonprofits readily embrace the idea of a volunteer program. Every nonprofit has tasks they lack resources to complete and enjoy having help from individuals who support their mission. However, starting a volunteer program and keeping it running is something to approach with care. Here are some tips to ensure your volunteer program runs smoothly.
Spread the word. One of the best ways to recruit volunteers is to be highly visible in the community. This can take several forms. Spread the word about your activities by having a good website and being actively engaged on social media. Use current volunteers to recruit new volunteers — people sympathetic to your cause often have friends who also identify with your mission. It’s hard to predict who will be drawn to your mission or good works, so exposing the largest possible number of people to your nonprofit is the best way to attract volunteers. Make sure all your communications project a clear brand and message and get your name in front of community members as often as possible by participating in local events where you can interact with like-minded people.
Focus on fit. Often, a volunteer will say “I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” but a nonprofit needs to drill deeper and find the right role for the volunteer. It’s always best to go over the opportunities and help guide a volunteer to select a role in which they will find value and feel they can make an impact. Putting someone in a job just because it has to be done can backfire if it isn’t a good fit for the volunteer. Get to know your volunteers. Talk to them and find out what attracts them to the work you do. Once you know your volunteers’ interests and motivations, you can find roles in your organization that suit their preferences and personalities.
Show appreciation. The relationship with volunteers must be stewarded like any other. Talk to volunteers to learn what type of recognition is most meaningful. Some volunteers are modest and don’t want accolades. Some enjoy having their photo in Facebook, whereas others really feel adequately rewarded by a warm and heartfelt thank you note. Creating opportunities for regular interaction with other volunteers and holding volunteer events can reinforce your appreciation and keep volunteers connected to your organization.
Check in regularly. It’s good to have ongoing contact with volunteers. As the relationship develops, ask for their feedback. After an event, ask what they think went well or didn’t? How would they have done things differently? Invest time in showing that you value your volunteer’s opinion. The stronger the relationship becomes, the more likely it is that the volunteer will bring more resources and contacts, which would be a long term win for the organization.
Whether your nonprofit is starting a new volunteer program or wants to improve an existing one, Dunleavy can help. We work with institutions large and small to build programs that set them—and their volunteers—up for success. To learn more about what Dunleavy & Associates can do for your nonprofit, contact us today.
About the author: Cheryl Pompeo is Senior Project Manager at Dunleavy & Associates. She brings nearly a decade of experience in special event and volunteer management experience to the firm. Formerly a Director of Special Events and a Regional Executive Director for a Philadelphia area healthcare nonprofit, Cheryl also specializes in campaign fundraising, corporate development, donor cultivation, board and committee development, and program delivery. Cheryl uses her knowledge to help Dunleavy’s clients strategically plan and implement endurance events, including walks, runs, and marathon campaigns.