Volunteers are an essential piece of any nonprofit’s operations. They share their valuable skills and time to complete work that’s vital for your organization’s mission.
Volunteer roles can vary from short-term engagements like seasonal campaigns to long-term commitments like board tenures. Regardless of its nature, the success of a volunteer-nonprofit relationship depends on proactive management.
Volunteer management is the process of recruiting, assigning, tracking, engaging and retaining volunteers for your nonprofit. It’s very similar to HR management in that you’re managing a team — the difference is that there’s no salary involved.
Still, volunteer management is a huge undertaking and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ahead are our top tips for nonprofits to succeed at managing their volunteers.
5 Volunteer Management Tips for Your Nonprofit
Just like recruiting an employee, you first want to determine what, when, where, and how of the support you need. Once you have established the specifics, you can move on to plan your calendar and task list, put together a list of skills and qualifications for your recruitment process, and define a scope of work for your volunteers.
Whether you are a national or community-based nonprofit, you want to ensure some level of flexibility for your volunteers. Planning ahead will allow volunteers to support you virtually or on-site for your specific projects. Also, being flexible can increase your odds of scoring top talent. Of course, this won’t be possible for every position, so consider creating a rotating schedule and perks, like travel arrangements, for those that need to participate on-site.
You’ll want to attract volunteers whose interests and skills align with your organization. You can do this by crafting a compelling description and launching a campaign that reflects your internal values and culture to find the best fit.
Thankfully, there are many different avenues you can use to reach broad audiences and increase your odds of finding a good match. These are some of our favorite places to find top volunteer talent:
Social media is a powerful communication tool that allows you to reach potentially millions of people at a low cost, making it the perfect place to connect with an audience that’s passionate about the causes you support.
To use social media as a recruitment channel, create a marketing campaign specifically to remind followers that you’re looking for volunteers. You’ll want to make signups as easy as possible for those interested, so include specific details like schedules, skills and locations in your posts. This will also ease the burden of sorting through applications for your team.
Many businesses look for volunteering opportunities for their employees. This type of arrangement may be a valuable way to secure long-term talent for your initiatives, especially if you partner with organizations that provide a service or product that relates to your mission.
Organizations like Girls Who Code or local student centers may be a good starting point for specific hard skills. And if you operate in a community, you’ll want to establish a connection with local leaders and programs. They may be able to refer people from the community to serve as volunteers.
Referrals account for one of the most successful recruitment practices, both for employment and volunteering.
Encourage your existing volunteers to bring over family and friends. Or invite your own network to collaborate. This is especially useful if you’re looking for specific skills your past colleagues or acquaintances have.
People who’ve already volunteered for your nonprofit know the ropes and have demonstrated their skills and willingness to participate. And nurturing these relationships is essential for continued support.
Make it a point to stay in touch with past volunteers and reach out periodically, reminding them of existing programs or new volunteering opportunities and inviting them to come back — and bring their friends.
A thoughtful onboarding process gives your volunteers everything they need to succeed with your nonprofit. Your volunteer onboarding needs to be straightforward and provide essential information like working hours, logistics (availability of transportation or food), and dress code, as well as a simple list of responsibilities and any training they will need to complete.
Keep things simple to set the tone for the engagement and make your volunteers feel welcome and confident in their roles.
For nonprofits that have more detailed and specific training for their volunteers, make sure that prior to the training you outline what they should expect at the training. During the training, ensure that you provide volunteers with all the information and tools they will need to be successful. And after the training, follow up periodically to make sure they are comfortable in executing their volunteer roles.
We briefly touched on the importance of flexibility in planning for nonprofit management. And here’s where it gets put to use. Just like any business that relies on shifts, your volunteers will need to come at specific times in order to keep things running smoothly.
Create a roster with assignments to ensure everyone has something to do when they show up — and you’re always properly staffed. There are many tools and methods you can use to manage shifts and schedules for volunteers, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something that helps your team be as efficient as possible.
Just like employees, keeping open lines of communication is essential for volunteer management. There are countless free choices like Slack, WhatsApp, or email. And you can create individual channels or networks to connect teams from different initiatives.
Similar to your internal communications, you’ll want to define guidelines and standards like response times, appropriate channels for specific topics, and office hours.
Your nonprofit relies on volunteers for core functions, from event-specific relationships to long-term tenures and seasonal partnerships. Taking the time to develop a solid volunteer management system is essential for your continued success. Book a consultation now to learn more about the best ways to manage your volunteer workforce and create a team that’s happy to come back and support you for years to come.