By Steven Page
Volunteer engagement is an ever-changing field. It no longer makes sense for nonprofits to simply take whoever wants to volunteer. In order to actually grow your organization, you want to make sure you choose qualified volunteers with special skills that can be utilized. Don’t be afraid to say “no” when someone is not the right fit for your organization.
More and more, especially in the millennial generation, people are choosing to volunteer at organizations where they can use their specialized skills rather than just finding a cause that interests them. They want to feel like they are doing something useful and valuable with their time. Giving volunteers options for skilled positions has become one of the key differentiators for successful nonprofits.
In the position description it is important to let prospective volunteers know:
Reaching and recruiting volunteers
Volunteers can really help your organization grow year after year. The key is keeping your volunteers engaged once you have clearly identified the roles they will be assigned.
How do you best do that?
You need to create a strategic plan for your volunteer program, which will initially take some of your resources—the biggest of which being time. Dedicating a few hours to nailing down the ways in which volunteers can serve your organization is necessary for success.
Your organization should also set up a time for volunteer appreciation activities such as managing and mentoring them, as well as volunteer-specific events. Don’t just let them come in and give them a little wave. A volunteer who feels under-appreciated will most likely leave, putting you back at square one. Bringing on volunteers and expecting them to fill gaps rarely works, so be sure to show them how much you care.
The most under-utilized way to recruit volunteers is word-of-mouth
Whether or not they are current volunteers, supporters of your organization should be able to serve as brand ambassadors to talk about the great work you are doing and the impact that you are having. Positive word-of-mouth will inspire other people who want to get involved and give back. And remember, a really good volunteer experience goes a long way. If people have a negative experience with you, they are going to talk about it. If they have a positive experience they are going to talk about it as well.
As in person, online word-of-mouth is powerful—perhaps even more powerful—as it will live online for all to see. Encourage volunteers and supporters to share your message, volunteer programs, videos, and photos on social media. The more supporters you have, the larger the network your organization will reach.
When a person clicks to donate, register for an event, or wants to sign up to volunteer, you don’t want them to have a poor mobile experience. This creates a barrier and will likely cause them to leave your form or website and lose interest, causing you to run the risk of losing that contact forever.
To overcome this obstacle, be sure that your website and online forms are mobile-friendly. This gives potential volunteers a great mobile experience and creates an increase in form submissions, creating a positive start to their impression of your organization.
Quick tips for partnering with corporations:
Remember these key points:
When someone supports your organization they support it because your mission resonates with them, meaning they are going to want to help in any way they can. The main motivator that makes a volunteer choose your organization over another is their passion about your cause. Keep this in mind as you are planning your volunteer outreach and experience, and be sure to let them know just how important they are!
Image credit: Flickr/Daniel Thornton
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