Your nonprofit is able to exist due to the multiple groups of equally dedicated people that provide their time and talents. The staff shows up daily to navigate and weave through the daily ins and outs. The board offers guidance and insight. Donors give financially to show support.
Then there are volunteers—the selfless individuals that help you because they truly care about the outcome of your mission. Or, maybe they’re just trying to get their hours in. But hey—they’re helping; that’s all that matters. You have the opportunity to get them to come back.
If you want volunteers to stick around, you should do everything in your power to make them happy. That means actually taking time to talk, listen and make the necessary changes. Depending on the size of your organization, managing volunteers can be a full-time job. Even small organizations require a great deal of attention to volunteers.
Regularly checking in with volunteers isn’t a practice that should be taken lightly. It should be mandatory. Determine how often you’d like to meet with each and every volunteer and stick to it. Obviously you might need to prioritize based on your more frequent volunteers, but you should meet with everyone.
Pitch It—Pitch it Real Good
Evaluations are scary. No one likes to feel like they’re being tested. I love the way JFFixler Group phrased it with their article “Volunteer Valuation, Not Evaluation.” When volunteers feel valued instead of evaluated, a few different things happen:
- They feel comfortable enough to readily offer information to help make your volunteer operations better.
- They’re motivated to do a better job.
- Ties with your organization become stronger, creating trust.
- Volunteers recognize your efforts, boosting retention rates.
There are ways to show value and reward volunteers without spending a boatload of money. Evaluation does sound incredibly dull, so have a little fun. If you’re to the point where you’ll be asking your volunteers for feedback, it’s probably at a milestone in their volunteering career.
For example, that could mean it’s their one month, six month or one year anniversary working for your organization. Celebrate with something as simple as a card signed by the staff. Small touches mean the world to your volunteers.
The Basics You’ll Need to Know
Start by recording information from volunteers that you’ll absolutely need to know. Hopefully you already have a record of these types of questions. If not, now’s the time to record it.
- How long have you been volunteering for this organization? [We really hope you know the answer to this one.]
- Do you plan to volunteer in the future? How often would that be if you had unlimited time? What’s realistic?
- What about our organization makes you not want to come back to volunteer?
- Likewise, what keeps you coming back?
Dive in Deeper
After the initial questions are out of the way, start to dive deeper to figure out how your organization is perceived and being portrayed to the world.
- After spending time with our organization, how has your perception changed?
- If you had to describe our mission to a friend who had never heard of our organization, what would you say?
This question will tell you about your brand perception. Plus, if anybody is misspeaking about your organization, this is the time to correct it.
- What could we be doing to help you succeed as a volunteer?
- What other information do you feel like we’ve left out?
Once you’ve determined how often you’d like to sit down with volunteers, download this sheet to use as a template for your next conversation. Modify it to include specific questions about your organization.