April marks National Volunteer Month, a time to celebrate those who volunteer their time and expertise and encourage others to participate in their community.
As nonprofit consultants, we understand the importance of gathering volunteers to assist with events, office projects, or providing hands-on experience with clients. However, engaging prospective or current volunteers can be tricky. Utilizing the right tools for volunteer engagement is important. Your organization’s goal should be to constantly provide ways for volunteers to serve your mission. After all, volunteers helped raise $184 billion in 2015 through charities, nonprofits or other organizations.
3 strengths for empowering individuals to volunteer with your organization:
Strength #1: Volunteers can make a huge difference when they utilize their talents.
Volunteers may contribute on a continuous basis or for a short, conditional period of time. Regardless, some projects may require a time frame that is unrealistic for volunteers to maintain.
✓ For instance, do not become reliant on a volunteer for handling all of your social media platforms, as social media strategies are ongoing and may require backup support from other volunteers or actual employees. Furthermore, if the volunteer were to leave, your organization would need to quickly find and train a replacement. Some social media platforms may require answering customer service questions which could be difficult to master if the volunteer is unfamiliar with the platform.
✓ Web technologies are not always easy hand-offs. With variety of CMS platforms and competing technologies, it is important to keep web projects under the organization staff. If the project seems tricky or too demanding, delegate to an employee in the specialized field.
There are plenty of worthy projects for volunteers to contribute to in your organization. By allowing volunteers to work on projects they feel most passionate about – design, event planning, communications – you will motivate them to produce quality results and critical content. Plus, when volunteers are happy, they are more likely to continue volunteering with your organization, which means increased retention.
✧ Don’t forget: Your volunteers surrender their personal time to contribute to your organization because they believe in your mission.
Strength #2: Customizing tasks for volunteers can create achievable results.
So maybe avoiding all web tasks is too much of an ask for your organization. There are some non-website design tasks that are suitable for volunteers, such as:
✓ Analyzing your analytics and writing a monthly report
✓ Doing an accessibility review (check out our list here!)
✓ Helping you write a project brief for a website revamp RFP
✓ Creating flyers or social media advertisements for upcoming events
✓ Handling registration or Q&As at information desks
✓ Proofreading and editing content
By customizing tasks for suitable volunteers, you can achieve more with your team! The median time spent volunteering was 52 hours a year. Broken down, that translates to approximately one hour a week. Utilize your volunteers where they can accomplish the most (and best!) work.
Strength #3: Volunteers who are appreciated stay motivated.
Volunteers deserve praise – they dedicate their personal time to you! Don’t forget to find nice ways to say thank you for their hard work. Perhaps it’s a catered lunch once a month or a social event outside of the office. By showing your volunteers that you appreciate their dedication, you can keep your team happy and motivated.
In addition to appreciation, volunteers want to feel welcomed into your organization. A few ways to do so are:
✓ Introducing your volunteers to staff
✓ Providing quality training sessions
✓ Discuss the organization’s goals
✓ Create a learning environment
✓ Say thank you!
✧ Remember: Recognition and happiness means retention. Make the experience worthwhile and enjoyable for your organization and your hard-working volunteers.