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Volunteer Engagement Strategies: 5 Tips For Your Nonprofits

Published: Dec 17, 2018

Volunteers are the backbone of every nonprofit organization. They donate their time, energy, and skills for the sole purpose of furthering your mission and goals without asking for anything in return.

Chances are, you wouldn’t be where you are today without them. That also means that if you don’t prioritize volunteer engagement you’re going to end up losing their support.

So how can you guarantee that your volunteers keep coming back each time? Don’t worry, we’re about to eliminate some of that uncertainty! Here are 5 volunteer engagement strategies to help boost volunteer engagement.

Build A Better Volunteer Application Form

Volunteer engagement should be every nonprofit organization’s priority from the very beginning. That means crafting an all-informative application. This will help kick-start your volunteer relationship on the right foot.

You can start off your application with the necessary information (such as email, phone number, and address) that’s vital to your volunteer profile. And then ask them questions about their hobbies, skills, and experiences. With this kind of information, you can send them relevant and exciting opportunities to keep them engaged.

Having useful information will help you better understand who your volunteers are, what they can offer, where they come from, and what gets them going. Which will, in turn, help you serve them better and retain them.

Apart from the necessary information, keep the other fields options, so you don’t overwhelm the applicants. Also, ask them how they heard about your organization which will help you with your marketing strategy.

Pay Attention To Your Volunteers’ Preference

Once you have all that valuable data you need to put it to good use in your engagement plan. Let’s look at a few actionable tips to get you started:

  1. Reach out using the right channels: Not all of your volunteers open every email you send and will end up missing out on important information. So, to make sure everyone gets your message at the right time you can use peer-to-peer texting and mass texting to inform volunteers and keep them engaged by asking them how their work is going, and addressing their queries.
  2. Send out tailored volunteer opportunities: Create segments in your volunteer list, based on their interests, so that you can send relevant opportunities based on their specific skills. That way, you won’t end up overwhelming them with tasks they cannot perform.
  3. Ask for volunteer feedback: Feedback is extremely important as it tells you what’s working and what isn’t. You can send out surveys to your volunteer base to learn about how your current program is working and to initiate a two-way conversation. To streamline the process, you can make SMS surveys and follow-ups based on it. Once a volunteer responds you can make a note of their response in the survey form. The collected information can be used for later outreach.

Not only will your volunteers appreciate this degree of personalization, but also will be happy to click on every text you send rather than grow desensitized to a high volume of generic messages that come their way.

Offer A Variety of Opportunities

The more appealing your volunteering opportunities seem the more likely your volunteers are to engage. Therefore, providing a diverse set of options is a total win-win. Easier said than done right? For that reason, you should keep these tips in mind while creating opportunities:

  1. First, look into your needs: Don’t just look for volunteers when you’re organizing events and fundraisers. Think out of the box— volunteers can help with administrative support, financial advice, legal work, interact with donors and supporters, etc. Now, you have a long list of opportunities and in the process, you’ll know each volunteer better.
  2. Let them choose their shifts: No matter what you want help with, make sure you’re offering various time slots to cater to your volunteers’ schedules. You can provide two shifts, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, preferably 3-4 hour shifts.
  3. Write job descriptions: To provide value to the work that every volunteer does, give them a position, title, and cool job description. This will also give your supporters an idea of what you and team do.

Host Volunteer Appreciation Events

One of the best ways to keep all your volunteers engaged is to say “thank you” and say it often. After all, people are prone to helping those that make them feel valued.

By appreciating and recognizing the work volunteers do for your organization you can keep them with you for longer.

Rather than just thanking them through letters, emails, texts or phone call you can go a step ahead and host an appreciation event. So, get creative, add various themes, and get all your volunteers to attend it. You can do this once a month.

The benefits of hosting such an event are:

  • You can help create a community specifically for the volunteers interested in furthering the cause.
  • By talking to your volunteers in person you’ll get to know them better. This will help you understand what motivates them to work and can be used for further outreach.
  • You can use it as an incentive to encourage volunteering with your organization. For example, you can host an event to celebrate milestones reached or give awards. This will definitely bring in a lot of engagement.

Encourage Socialization

A lot of people volunteer to expand their social circles, make connections, and meet like-minded people. While supporting your organization, they also look forward to connecting with others and been seen at high-profile events.

Creating an environment which would nurture such relations will keep your volunteer happy and engaged. Help them make these connections by inviting them for events and make them feel like an important part of your group. This will also help you retain them.

Volunteers are your biggest assets and are a key to your organization’s success. You must present them with opportunities to grow, build a positive experience, and appreciate them on a regular basis. Keep these volunteer engagement strategies in mind while crafting your own.

Feature image source: Rémi Walle/Unsplash


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