Tips for the Nonprofit Sector

Tips for the Nonprofit Sector

Why Have Volunteers?

Volunteers of all ages bring distinct life experiences, unique talents, different occupational skills, different languages, new perspectives and fresh ideas.

Recruiting Today’s Volunteer

  • Hold a staff “dream” session on a flip chart. Write down what staff could do “if I had enough time.” Create potential volunteer job descriptions from duties staff would relinquish.
  • Create opportunities that convince volunteers your organization is where they want to spend their free time. Volunteers want to be productive and give back to the community. Create opportunities that allow the volunteer to see the connection and the big picture.
  • Make volunteer job descriptions inviting and fun. The volunteer has many choices on where to spend their free time. If the opportunity does not sound exciting, you will not recruit many volunteers.
  • Many new volunteers are interested in one-time opportunities. Once they get to know the agency they often add on more volunteer time.
  • Volunteers want to see a result back from their volunteering such as new skills, personal development or connections.
  • Be flexible when scheduling volunteers. Many volunteers have limited time per day for volunteering. You will find more people willing to volunteer for 2 hour shifts than 8 hour shifts.

Retaining Volunteers

  • Take the WORK out of volunteering. Encourage humor and fun! A fun, positive environment = happy volunteers = happy staff.
  • Positive recognition and a good experience = increased retention. Celebrate every volunteer and their contribution!
  • Treat volunteers as an equal, vital part of your staff. Be open with the volunteers about problems and challenges. Listen to your volunteers!
  • Make sure the volunteer work is meaningful. Meaningful action means that the service being done is valuable to the agency and the community. Meaningful action makes people feel like what they did made a difference in a measurable way and that their time was well used. Evaluation gives direction for improvement, growth and change.
  • Present volunteers with a variety of volunteer opportunities focusing on different social issues and community concerns.
  • To improve your volunteer program you need constant evaluation.  Ask the volunteers “how are we doing” whenever you can. Volunteers can provide a reality check with the community. Have a suggestion box for the volunteers to provide anonymous forms of assessment.
  • Consider having a Volunteer Focus Group work with the Volunteer Manager to regularly recommend improvements to the agency.
  • Send a survey to inactive volunteers (to find out why they left). This will create valuable feedback to improve your Volunteer program.
  • Volunteers work more effectively and efficiently if they own the tasks and the process.
  • Be clear about time demands and then honor them.
  • Provide every volunteer with a job description, a supervisor, orientation, training and periodic evaluation. Make sure all volunteers understand how their work ties to the mission of the agency and that their work is important!There are eight elements of an effective volunteer position description. Review job descriptions on a regular basis to ensure accuracy and relevance to the agency’s mission:
    • Title – needs to describe the volunteer’s responsibilities
    • Supervisor – Needs to be clearly defined
    • Goals – result of the service
    • Duties – List major tasks in each area of responsibility
    • Qualifications – Include skills necessary for the effective performance of duties
    • Time – Clearly define the time commitment
    • Training – Detail type of training including orientation, job specific training and on-the-job training
    • Evaluation – Feedback is essential

Other Thoughts

  • Numbers – reporting the strengths of a program in numbers is a means to demonstrate its value and is well understood by administrators. Report contributions by volunteers in tangible terms.
  • Implement a volunteer referral reward program. For every volunteer you refer you can earn points towards an agency denim shirt or sweatshirt, lunch with the boss, etc.
  • Volunteers need lots of information. A great way to keep them informed is through email. Email is less expensive and can address an important subject much quicker than US mail.
  • Websites are very important! Keep your website up to date. Ask your volunteers to regularly visit your site to learn the latest news.