Attracting and Retaining Volunteers
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
The growth of any nonprofit organization requires continuous evaluation of the location of its untapped potential resources. Too often, volunteers become people who are offered supportive work. They become stamp lickers, rest tokens, or the ones who end up handing out leaflets. On many occasions, while working with a nonprofit, I witnessed people who came to help who had the skills to potentially be the spokesperson for the organization but were never fully appreciated--often to the detriment of the charity.
This blog post will provide some practical tips to help you build the best relationship with your volunteers and ensure you maximize the potential of those who are passionate about your mission.
Interviewing is everything
When you recruit a new volunteer, how often will that person’s skills be scrutinized? I recommend long conversations on the phone or in person. Get to know your volunteers and find out about their experiences. Take the time to make sure this is a priority, and then you can start putting people where they are most valuable.
Most volunteers want to begin by helping in fundamental roles--roles where they would be obviously appreciated. However, by identifying where the volunteer’s greatest potential lies, you can discover the real resources at hand. Ask them about their work experience, skills, hobbies, and interests. You never know what expertise can come in handy!
Open door policy with your volunteers
Establish a continuous communication channel with volunteers so that they can easily exchange ideas. Remember, not everyone has communication skills or time to keep in touch. Make sure it is on your to-do list to contact them regularly.
Their abilities may not be clear on the first day, but within a month or so, they may have a better understanding of their actual capabilities or make suggestions for improvement. Regular, thoughtful communication with you will increase the likelihood that your volunteers will provide more value over time and will not be moved due to lack of participation.
Leave your ego outside
Oftentimes, salaried nonprofit employees are treated as though they have a higher status on the "food chain" than volunteers which makes it difficult for volunteers to be considered as equals. Sometimes, fresh ideas are ignored with the "this is how we do it" mentality.
There is no doubt that new ideas from volunteers are one of your greatest rewards. Remember, they have fresh eyes and valuable opinions. Try to put “self” aside. When someone draws our attention to a flaw that we have never discovered, it can sometimes become an obstacle. In the final analysis, it should be emphasized that great ideas greatly benefit the people we are serving--not those who are presenting the ideas.
You can even consider using an anonymous suggestion box so others are comfortable submitting their ideas and not have to do it in person or through an intermediary.
Give your volunteers a chance
When assigning responsibilities, don’t be afraid to transfer major responsibilities to volunteers.
Volunteers will be grateful when you realize their potential. Full of energy, they may work harder to prove that your beliefs about them are correct. The greater the challenge, the greater the enthusiasm. Individuals will find that working with your nonprofit organization will be inspiring.
Repay hard work and dedication through the appreciation of volunteers
Even if you bring coffee for your volunteers occasionally, consider what steps you can take to ensure that your volunteers are never taken for granted.
Here are some ways to reward volunteer efforts:
Create a structure of reward for volunteers
Give thank you cards
Award efforts with an online gift card
Organize a monthly team meal
Send a simple appreciation email
Implement “Volunteer of the Month”
All in all, many factors will make sure your volunteers’ time and expertise are viewed as very valuable resources. Take the time to fully understand them initially, make a conscious effort to support them, reward them, and maximize their potential. Even if you simply have one or two volunteers, they are valuable resources that can bring positive benefits to everyone involved.
If you would like more information on expanding your nonprofit organization or small business, give us a call at (281) 827-9793 or send us an email.