Running a successful nonprofit isn’t easy.
With constrained time and resources, nonprofits need all of the extra help that they can get, especially from volunteers.
Volunteer support is incredibly important because it lessens the load of admin work, helps programs run smoothly, builds a tight knit community, and saves money on staff salaries. According to The NonProfit Times, “The value of a volunteer hour continues to rise, up to $24.69 in 2017.”
Because volunteer assistance is worth so much to nonprofits, creating a remarkable experience — from start to end — is imperative for getting return volunteers and continuous engagement. A great way to do this: make sure your volunteer management is organized, comprehensive, and thoughtful.
Check out our 5 tips for exceptional nonprofit volunteer management below.
Tips from Museums of Sonoma County nonprofit volunteer expert.
Tip #1: Seek out people who truly want to volunteer
Anyone can volunteer, but are the people that you’re targeting passionate about your cause? Do they believe in your mission? Are they willing to commit?
Recruiting volunteers who are the right fit for your nonprofit is critical, because their attitudes and work ethic will shape your volunteer culture moving forward. There’s a difference between volunteering because you feel like you “have to” rather than actually wanting to. If you get more people who fall into the “have to” bucket, the feel and community atmosphere won’t be as strong because they won’t share the same passion as someone who truly wants to volunteer. Lack of passion leads to a decrease in morale and increase in negativity.
Conversely, when volunteers truly care about your cause and mission and want to volunteer, their willingness and excitement to contribute will be apparent. They’ll bring with them positivity, high energy, and happiness. All of these favorable attributes will have a domino effect and invigorate the whole group to do good and feel good.
Tip #2: Think outside the box when searching for volunteers
Even in the nonprofit world, there’s competition. So it’s incredibly important to be creative when recruiting volunteers for your organization. Recruiting is similar to sales in that you have to think outside the box to get people interested and involved with your organization. An idea to get you started: personalized email outreach.
Personalized email outreach is a classic sales tactic that’s great for getting people interested in a product or service. Whether you’re targeting local companies or schools that you’ve never been in touch with before or rekindling relationships with volunteers who haven’t stopped by in a while, reaching out through a personalized email will get people engaged and spread awareness about your cause.
To be successful with this, you must perfect your email. Make it short, friendly, and to the point. Try creating a couple of templates — a “cold pitch” template for people you haven’t connected with before and a “warm lead” template for people you’ve previously spoken with. “Cold pitch” personalized emails can be trickier, so here’s an example of one to review!
Hope you’re having a nice week!
I noticed you work in [Name of nearby City], and wanted to let you know that my nonprofit organization, [Name of organization], is looking for volunteers to help support our [Insert cause/mission].
We have volunteer shifts available after work and on the weekends. We also have special shifts for team building, if that’s something you’d be interested in too.
Please let me know if I can provide any resources or additional information to you — I’m also happy to chat over the phone if that’s easier.
Look forward to hearing from you!
[Insert your name]
Tip #3: Use your volunteers to handle “the small stuff”
Since many nonprofit staff members are strapped for time, there’s a surplus of “small stuff” that often gets neglected. Things like general admin work, data entry, updating donor and volunteer databases, stuffing envelopes, printing name tags and more.
“The small stuff” is just as important as the bigger tasks because often times, they lay the framework for getting the larger things done. Volunteer support is perfect for this because these tasks are straightforward and don’t require a lot of guidance. But make sure that when assigning work that may feel more tedious or mundane, you explain why the task will help the organization and what is means for the success of the cause. For instance, if you’re asking a volunteer to stuff envelopes for a gala, let them know how the proceeds or exposure from the gala will fund or benefit your nonprofit.
Volunteers are happy to help in any way that they can and do what needs to get done to ensure that your nonprofit is running smoothly.
Tip #4: Foster a sense of community for your volunteers
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. — Coretta Scott King
Joining an engaged community with similar values is a strong motivator for volunteers to get involved, and often times, is a main reason why they choose to join a nonprofit. There are many ways to cultivate a sense of community. Start by making a point to facilitate ice breakers at the beginning of each shift. By doing this, everyone can provide their bio and other personal information about themselves, which will lay the groundwork for a comfortable, friendly environment.
During each shift, let volunteers take “group breaks” to encourage socializing. It’s easy to be autonomous during break time, but volunteers will find more fulfillment from their efforts if they have an opportunity to chat it up with other volunteers on site. An easy way to implement this is to have a break room or designated “volunteer break” area where people know where to go and meet with others.
Lastly, to fully embrace a sense of community, create a “volunteer community” or “gratitude” bulletin board. Here, volunteers and staff can take pictures and write friendly notes to one another. Make sure to display this board in an area with heavy foot traffic so everyone can view and enjoy it!
Tip #5: Let your volunteers know you appreciate them
Showing appreciation and gratitude is a good practice for any type of work environment because it increases morale, satisfaction, and productivity. Even though volunteers aren’t employees per se, they’re still doing a large amount of work and deserve to be appreciated. According to BrandonGaille.com, 78% of people would work harder in their jobs if they were recognized. Granted, working at an organization and volunteering are different, but the concept is similar: show them that you care and you’ll reap the benefits.
Expressing thanks can be done in a number of ways, such as using positive affirmation, giving small gifts, celebrating the individual, and hosting volunteer appreciation events.
Each organization will vary on what type of appreciation works for them. If your budget is tight, then it might be better to focus on using positive affirmation, creating handmade cards, and getting small gifts, such as candy for your volunteers. On the other hand, if you have a bigger budget, hosting a full on event with music, food, and awards to highlight your volunteers is a great way to show that you care.
How have you applied these 5 tips to your nonprofit volunteer management practices? Let us know in the comments!
Annabel is a Marketing Communications Specialist at JotForm. She’s passionate about writing and has worked in communications roles domestically and internationally. When she’s not blogging about SaaS or online forms, she enjoys international travel, loud concerts, and artisan coffee. You can reach Annabel through her