The lifeblood of most organizations comes in a few different forms, but one of the most important is the people who selflessly dedicate hours to your mission—volunteers.
They aren’t required to be at your organization, and yet something pulls them in, captures their attention and makes them want to be a part of your organization. But sometimes, it’s hard to find those people.
Andrew Stanley, Founder and CEO of VolunteerMark, spoke at Cause Camp this year sharing his knowledge about finding those diamonds in the rough.
Before you’re ready to find volunteers, the entire staff must make sure they’re ready to bring in them to the organization—because they’ll be working with everyone in your organization. Only once you’re ready to handle a volunteer program, then it’s time to get started recruiting helpers.
Let’s start in the most simple of places looking for volunteers—people who already donate to your cause. Clearly, something compelled them to donate to your organization. If you’ve done a good job getting to know them, you’ll have a better opportunity to cultivate them into volunteers, as well.
“Most of the time, your volunteers are your donors,” Stanley said. “It’s important that they’re able to get what they’re expecting out of the experience.”
Plus, Stanley said the best volunteers are the people who are already busy. When you’re advertising about volunteer opportunities, make sure to list the full details and write appealing copy around the position. You want people who are heavily involved but also ready to commit some time to your organization. Once you find them, you need to make sure they stay engaged.
The 24-hour period after somebody fills out your volunteer info form on your website or contacts you are crucial. If you’re not organized enough to respond within that time period, you could lose the volunteer.
If you have a first-time volunteer on your hands, don’t make them fill out a long form. That’s sure to cause them to run away and never come back. Instead, if you need to gather a lot of details, do it over a longer period of time.
Gradually collecting information will allow you to go through an onboarding process with your new volunteer. Volunteers that are educated on the job they’re performing and the organization they’re helping are incredibly more likely to enjoy their experience, and to come back.
Plus, something that we stress at Nonprofit Hub, and that Stanley mentioned, is to ask for feedback from volunteers, and to actually listen. If they want their volunteer experience to be improved, it’ll help you keep more volunteers in the future.
Finally, once your volunteers have been out in the field doing the hard work, make sure they know how much you value their efforts. If they know how much they mean to you, it helps with volunteer retention.
Some great ideas that Stanley mentioned include:
- Create a spotlight or blog post for your website highlighting high-impact volunteers
- Host a volunteer appreciation party
- Give simple awards to your volunteers
- Actually reach out and say “thank you” or “happy birthday” to volunteers
- Make a year-end video featuring volunteers’ names
- Use volunteers’ names on other newsletters or public marketing
What other ideas has your organization tried to recruit, engage or recognize volunteers for the work they’re doing?