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Volunteer management trends in 2020 and beyond

By Eric Burger
January 29, 2020

Image by Volunteer Transportation Center of Watertown, N.Y.

The importance of volunteers in 2020 can not be overstated. The value of a volunteer hour has risen over 7 percent in just the last five years and is now at $25.23. If you ask most nonprofits, however, they would say their volunteers are priceless. Volunteers provide nonprofit organizations with the sweat equity they need to fulfill their missions and goals and provide invaluable support within their communities. Because volunteers are so important to nonprofits’ success and reach, the way volunteers are managed within those organizations is crucial to optimizing the recruitment, engagement, communication, and data-collection processes of a volunteer program. Here are a few volunteer-management trends nonprofits should be aware of for 2020 and planning beyond.

Gamification is a leader in engagement

Open Hand Atlanta is a charitable organization that focuses on providing people suffering from chronic diseases with nourishment, support, and education. Open Hand Atlanta is using gamification as an integrated strategy to engage volunteers, retain them, and increase their lifetime value to the organization.

Gamification creates an atmosphere of friendly competition that challenges volunteers to give in exchange for value. Many organizations in 2020 are using gamification to allow volunteers to earn points for each of their fulfilled opportunities and exchange these points for prizes. This strategy provides a nonprofit and its volunteers with value at the same time.

As of 2019 Open Hand Atlanta has saved $649,656 by using the gamification features in its volunteer-management platform to create and deploy its Open Hand LeaderTree initiative. These results demonstrate what can be achieved when gamification is taken seriously and applied to volunteer programs. Gamification will continue to be a strategy that nonprofits can use in 2020 and beyond to differentiate their programs from other organizations in their communities.

Online application process is a must

Creating a secure, convenient, and streamlined process for volunteers to complete applications online is a must for nonprofits in 2020. Creating an online process for volunteer applications doesn’t just make record keeping easier on a nonprofit's staff, it also makes the process of committing to opportunities easier on volunteers. Deploying an effective online application process can significantly increase recruitment, eliminate paper records, and automate reporting. The Ronald McDonald House of Winston-Salem is saving hundreds of administrative hours per year using the recruitment features of its volunteer-management platform.

Volunteer expectations have evolved with technology, particularly when it comes to the application process. A paper-based, manual process is no longer the best solution for organizations wanting to create an engaging experience for both volunteers and staff.

Communication is key

The old saying “communication is key” is becoming more relevant than ever in 2020. Communication serves as a very important component when it comes to volunteer engagement. Nonprofits need to communicate early and often if they hope to satisfy volunteers’ expectations. Using communication avenues to keep volunteers up to date provides nonprofits the opportunity to nurture relationships, introduce supporters to new opportunities, cross-pollinate giving types, and create lifelong followers. In recent studies, 88 percent of nonprofits said that their most important communication tools were email and their marketing site. Volunteer-management software allows organizations to communicate with volunteers via their websites, email, text, and social media channels.

Active communication with volunteers is one component of strategic volunteer management that is not going away anytime soon. As technology continues to evolve, finding new communication avenues will continue to be a part of effective volunteer management.

Takeaways

Volunteer management trends continue to shift toward engagement, effective record keeping, and online processes. Nonprofits that want to optimize their volunteer programs and volunteer management strategies for 2020 and beyond should focus their efforts on gamification, online application processes, and adaptable communication tactics.

Tags: Volunteers