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What do your volunteers need from your organization?

By Cassandra Smallman
March 18, 2021

From running fundraising events to marketing a worthy cause, volunteers play essential roles in many organizations. While we often consider what we need volunteers to do for us, have you ever considered what a volunteer may need from your organization to succeed?

Here at InitLive, we’ve worked with many organizations to help them set up and manage successful and engaging volunteer programs. We understand the vital roles that volunteers play at any nonprofit. And if we could share one lesson that we’ve learned, it’s that volunteers need sufficient support from their organizations in order to do the best work possible and make a real difference.

To help kick-start your new volunteer strategy, we’ve pulled together a few tips that we’ve seen make a difference for nonprofits. Specifically, this article will explore what volunteers need from your organization to maximize their impact, such as:

  • An outstanding sign-up and onboarding experience
  • Strong communication
  • Impactful results
  • A feeling of appreciation

Supplying your volunteers with everything they need will result in a positive experience for them and more progress for your nonprofit. Without further ado, let’s dive into our first tip!

1. Volunteers want an outstanding sign-up and onboarding experience

Few things are more frustrating to a volunteer than navigating a confusing sign-up process. As a leader at an organization looking to recruit volunteers, the last thing you want to do is make a bad first impression. That’s why investing in a user-friendly volunteer sign-up page and form is well worth the resources you put into them.

If you are looking to make the experience excellent, publicly post individual volunteer opportunities right on your website. This practice will allow volunteers to see all the available opportunities and sign up directly for the roles that pique their interests.

Once they have signed up, it’s time to set them up for success with a convenient onboarding experience. All of your volunteers will need some type of training to understand their assigned roles and responsibilities. As we continue navigating the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, consider simply offering the training online so volunteers can complete it at their own pace from the comfort of their own homes.

However you offer training to your volunteers, make sure to establish an open line of communication, so they’ll feel comfortable reaching out with questions regarding their responsibilities or your nonprofit.

Overall, to create an outstanding sign-up and onboarding process, you need to focus on making the process easy and convenient for your volunteers. You don’t want them to feel like they are taking on too much before they even start. 

2. Volunteers need you to communicate with them

Everyone knows communication is key, but when it comes to volunteer management, that might be an understatement. Touching base with them too little can leave your volunteers feeling lost and confused. On the other hand, over-communicating about things that don’t apply to them can leave them feeling overwhelmed. Basically, communication can make or break a volunteer’s experience.

When it comes to communication, lengthy email chains often cause a lot of misunderstanding. Many organizations rely on volunteer management software to prevent this problem.

As explained in InitLive’s guide to volunteer management software, a volunteer management system acts as a database for all of an organization’s volunteer information. It makes it easy to communicate responsibilities and keep your volunteers up to date on any changes. Ideally, this software should send volunteers notifications and emails when something that directly affects them occurs.

When paired with a consistent communication plan, a volunteer management system will take your volunteer communication to the next level. By proactively interacting with volunteers in an organized way, you ensure volunteers can stay caught up on any shift changes, new responsibilities, and more with minimal extra effort on your part.

3. Volunteers want to make a difference

There are so many motivations behind why a person volunteers their time to a cause. What most of them have in common is that they believe in the mission. Many volunteers are passionate about the mission or cause of an organization and aim to maximize their contributions as much as possible.

The best way to facilitate that passion is by harnessing each individual’s skills to maximize their positive impact.

You’ll need to collect information about their skills, qualifications, and certifications, then use the data to match the right volunteers to the right roles.

Again, many nonprofits use volunteer management software to make this process more efficient. The software automatically puts volunteers in the roles where they’ll thrive, resulting in a much more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. The software allows you to maximize your volunteers’ impact without extra tedious administration work on your part. 

4. Volunteers need to feel appreciated

Volunteers donate their valuable time and skills to your organization because they believe in your cause. That doesn’t mean, however, that they want to be taken for granted. A little appreciation goes a long way in retaining engaged and motivated volunteers. Showing that you appreciate your volunteers is one of the most important and easiest ways to make them feel valued.

Here are a few approaches to try: 

  • Send a thank-you note to them after their shift.
  • Offer a volunteer thank-you package with branded items. 
  • Hand out an award for really stand-out volunteers. 
  • Host a monthly or quarterly volunteer appreciation lunch or coffee hour.
  • Send out a volunteer survey to ask for their feedback. 

Any step you take to show how important your volunteers are to your organization can only lead to positive results, so the extra effort is worth the investment. By going above and beyond in recognizing volunteers, you’ll make it much more likely that these valuable individuals will stick around and continue supporting your work.

Closing thoughts

With all of these tips in mind, your team will be able to create a standout experience for your volunteers. Now, it’s your turn to get to work and ensure that your organization is giving your volunteers everything they need, so they can do their best work!

Tags: Volunteers