When the F1 Key Doesn’t Work—Attracting and Retaining Volunteers

Mark Titi is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and the founder of Wobbly Nonprofit.

Volunteers are as important to nonprofits as technology is to a millennial. And we all know how important that is. So how do you go about attracting and retaining volunteers?

Painful Volunteer Engagement

Four Volunteer Personalities Your Nonprofit Needs Now

First find a Cowboy or Cowgirl.Find a Cowboy or Cowgirl

Not one who didn’t want to volunteer and simply got lassoed into it. Instead find a real broncobuster ready to help you get things into apple pie order.

Possible roles: Serving as a Volunteer Team Leader. Planning and coordinating activities. Top level organization of people, processes and events.

Why needed: Many times a nonprofit lacks the funding to support good volunteer administration. Consequently, orientation, training and supervision may be weak. The right Cowboy or Cowgirl can make this area stronger than a Brigham Young cocktail.

Next locate a Lumberjack.Locate a Lumberjack

This volunteer loves logging in to build relationships.

Possible roles: Managing social media interactions. Maintaining a blog. Online volunteer recruitment. Research of funding opportunities.

Why needed: Keeping up with the forest of virtual communities can be a job not everyone is cut out for. Many fundraisers need more face time with potential donors. The Lumberjack can provide important support in filling that void.

Don’t forget the Garbage Man.Your Nonprofit Needs a Garbage Man

Not every volunteer assignment can be served up on a silver platter. Someone has to be willing to dig through the trash. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasures.

Possible roles: Recovering important systems, ideas and people down in the dumps. Bringing projects back to life while injecting enthusiasm into other volunteers.

Why needed: Volunteer disinterest and burnout can result from involvement with projects that didn’t get off the ground in the past. The Garbage Man brings special leadership and vision in sorting through the rubble. Locating diamonds in the rough can be a profitable and rewarding activity.

The Electrician rounds out the group.Why Your NPO Needs an Electrician

This key volunteer is your ambassador that just keeps plugging away. Preferably this person has previous volunteer experience within your own organization.

Possible roles: Keeping your nonprofit and its volunteers wired.

Why needed: There is not always clear communication flowing between volunteers, staff members, the Board of Directors and the community.

Shake up your Organizational Structure!

Place an increased emphasis on volunteer management and retention. The benefits can include improved visibility, process improvements, better volunteer (and staff) satisfaction and cost savings. That’s a great return on investment!

Anticipate volunteer needs as far in advance as possible. Consider establishing multiple workgroups in broad areas of need, each containing the four volunteer personality types above.

• Seek to gain a better understanding of volunteer skills and interests. Carefully look at the many faces of volunteers. They can also be:

• Consultants
• Ambassadors
• Potential board members
• Converted to cash or in-kind donors

Turn this idea over in your mind: On-Call Volunteerism. This can be an effective tool in addressing urgent needs. In those cases where volunteer assistance could be beneficial and is required on short-notice, on-call volunteers can prove to be a valuable asset. This is especially true with property, building and equipment issues.

• Make regular use of rotating internships when tasks are repetitive, the training required is minimal and continuity is less of a factor.

• Remember that volunteers don’t like to be taken advantage of any more than you would. Treat volunteers as the key long-term asset they are. Invite your new volunteers to actively partner with staff and your board.

Volunteers are more than just help for the things you don’t like to do or are overloaded with. So shake things up to create a rich, meaningful volunteer experience. You might even get peppered with compliments.

When the F1 Key Doesn't Work—Attracting and Retaining Volunteers

Mark Titi

June 20, 2014

You May Also Enjoy

Two professionals shake hands, representing a business and nonprofit partnership
Sponsorship v. Donations: The Drawbacks and Benefits

Sponsorship v. Donations: The Drawbacks and Benefits

Needing money is a common denominator among all nonprofits. We may do different things, serve different causes, or even operate in different areas of the world. However, we all need funds. Two of the tried-and-true methods for raising dough, sponsorships, and charitable donations, can cause a lot of confusion. Here’s your guide to keeping them straight and also maximizing their ability to support your mission.

Become a Member

Whether you’re with a large team or a solo entrepreneur looking to start the next great cause, we have a membership package that will help you grow your network and your cause.