Organizing nonprofit volunteers requires many skills. You need to be personable, connect with your volunteers easily, and communicate well. When well organized, your volunteers are not only a huge help to your mission, but can also make great donors and future board members. Here are a few important tips for keeping them effective and happy.
Getting volunteers in the door is important. Afterwards you can help them get started at your own pace. Make the process as simple as you can, whether it’s through a form on your nonprofit’s website or an auto responder in email. You still want to personally make sure you’re getting the highest quality volunteers, but having a process in place to bring new volunteers on board can help. Be sure to consider if your organization requires background checks, and plan for how to simply execute the proper screening.
RELATED: Guide: Recruit Nonprofit Volunteers
Technology can make it much easier to coordinate a large group of people. Creating group chats, organizing through social media, and using email effectively can help keep volunteers on the same page. Search your favorite app store for volunteer management apps, which are often free. You can also find informative resources about different volunteer management tools online, like this roundup of options from Galaxy Digital. Too often, nonprofits find their communication and coordination failing, because they don’t devote the resources to keep up. Having a board member (or board members) focus on the maintenance and upgrades can help.
Volunteers are the ones who best know how the process of managing them can be improved. Ask them periodically whether they have any requests or suggestions. They may find scheduling too difficult, or may find that signing up was too hard. Either way, their input will give you information about how you can make it more rewarding for them to participate.
Organizing nonprofit volunteers can be a full-time job. Sometimes it needs to be. A volunteer coordinator can help by being a central point-of-contact for volunteers and serving as an ambassador for the organization. A volunteer committee can be in charge of finding new volunteers and managing the volunteers that are already there.
While volunteers are likely to be passionate about their projects, they can’t be expected to put in as much work as board members. They need work-life-volunteer balance, and that often means that they aren’t going to be able to devote a lot of their time. Don’t stretch your volunteers too thin. Just like employees, they can experience burnout and emotional fatigue, and eventually decide to quit. Keep expectations clear by asking how many hours per month each volunteer can realistically commit to when they first sign up.
When volunteers are working on things that they enjoy and understand, it’s better for everyone. If people have interests in computer work, accounting, or physical labor, you’ll benefit more by putting them in these roles. It’s likely that they enjoy them because they’re good at them. This also encourages volunteers to join to further their own goals, such as learning more about an industry, or growing as a professional.
Appreciation goes a long way. When volunteers don’t feel appreciated, they have no reason to continue volunteering. Appreciating your volunteers will encourage them to do more for the nonprofit, and will smooth over any emotional burden that they may feel from giving their time to volunteering. Volunteering is demanding: it’s mentally taxing and emotionally exhausting, even if it is personally rewarding. Some ways to show appreciation include a casual “volunteer appreciation night” at a local restaurant, a small gift around the holidays, or occasionally offering free tickets and other perks that come the nonprofit’s way.
Organizing volunteers is a large part of running a nonprofit. Without volunteers, most nonprofit organizations wouldn’t be able to exist. By taking good care of them with these tips, you can be assured of having an adequate body of volunteers for years to come.
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