Volunteer management strategies for nonprofits

July 4, 2018 - 8 minutes read

Volunteers play a huge role in your organization and the impact it makes. They may not contribute financially, and yet they are your most valuable assets. But to make sure they stick around and remain a part of your cause for the long run, volunteer engagement must be a priority at your nonprofit. It’s easily done with a well-developed volunteer management strategy. We have made a list of 5 strategies you can use to manage your volunteers.

Create a Job Description & recruit volunteers

The first step in volunteer management is to create a job description for recruitment. Many organizations neglect to provide a specific job description and what people can expect from volunteering. This affects the recruitment and retention of volunteers. An updated description tells people what your organization is looking for and if they are the right fit for the job. By doing so, you don’t have to worry about retention because people are signing up for what they want to do.

The job description must answer basic questions and must be able to let people evaluate themselves. Start your description by answering the following questions:

  1. Who is your organization looking for?
  2. What position are you looking to fill up? What skills do you need?
  3. Where can they work from?
  4. When does the job start?
  5. Why do you need volunteers for this job? Why should they be interested?
  6. How can your volunteers be successful at the job?

Use simple language to answer the above questions and tailor it to the audience you are targeting. For example, if you are looking for student volunteers, let them know how this job will benefit their overall growth and development. If you want to target working professionals give them insights about how volunteering will help improve their skills and help them meet like-minded people or make social connections.

Once you’ve created a description, recruitment of volunteers become easier.

Set goals

After you have recruited the right people to work for your organization, you need to set goals. Goals help you track your progress, engage, retain and satisfy volunteers.

If your goals aren’t well defined it’s impossible to accomplish them. Setting quantifiable goals are key to volunteer management.

What goals to set?

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals are set to ensure that your organization and volunteers have the same understanding of what has to be achieved. Setting these goals will help your organization create clear, concise and attainable goals.

What is SMART?

  • Specific: Goals have to be simple to understand and well defined. They must say what the volunteer has to do.
  • Measurable: The goal should be measurable, providing tangible evidence of what has been done by the volunteer.
  • Achievable: The goal must challenge volunteers and push them to achieve it. Let volunteers work within their comfort zones and lay out steps to achieve the said goal.
  • Result-Oriented: You must have a specific result in mind while setting goals. This way you attach real-world value to your goals.
  • Time-Bound: Without a time-period, you cannot measure your accomplishments. Start by making a detailed timeline.

SMART is a good way for organizations to reach milestones and to track progress.

Make use of technology

Today, there a tool for everything. From managing your volunteers to running campaigns, technology swoops in to simplify the process. With technological advancements, you can hire new volunteers, communicate better, manage volunteers in different areas, and monitor their tasks.

How to go about it?

  • Use websites like VolunteerMatch, Cisco Volunteer connection tool, Idealist.org, and LinkedIn to reach out to potential volunteers.
  • You can use video conferencing tools like Skype, Facetime, or Microsoft teams to make calls to communicate with volunteers and hold discussions on projects.
  • Make use of Google calendar, Facebook groups or Dropbox to plan, discuss, schedule, and share files with volunteers are in different locations.
  • To keep a track of volunteers activities, Google Sheets or Trello are good options.

Don’t limit yourself to the tools I’ve listed here. Use this as a guide to using technology in every part of your volunteer management strategy.

Focus on volunteer retention

Every nonprofit wants to retain its volunteer base. Having long-term volunteers means you don’t have to spend extra for training and that they are familiar with the work at hand. To retain volunteers, you need to persuade them in the right manner. Make them feel wanted, appreciate them or give them incentives.

Here are a few tips to retain volunteers:

  • Make your volunteers feel valued. Do this by giving importance to the time and effort they put in.
  • Make training and onboarding an ongoing effort. This helps volunteers grow and develop their skills.
  • Allow volunteers to craft their own schedules.
  • Encourage volunteers to get their friends and family involved in the mission.
  • Thank them and appreciate their efforts.
  • Take inputs from your volunteer and make changes to training programs.

Retaining your best volunteers must be a priority in your volunteer management strategy.

Prioritize volunteer recognition

Like everyone else, your volunteers want to be thanked. Failing to do so will give them the impression that their hard work hasn’t made an impact and will discourage them from volunteering.

To retain your current volunteer base, you need to show them you value their efforts. You can show value only through appreciation and recognition.

Create a recognition program to reward volunteers. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Give incentive or gifts to volunteers who have achieved a milestone.
  • Make “Volunteer of the month” an award which can be given.
  • Share success stories of volunteers.
  • Encourage volunteers to bring family members to some of your events.
  • Invite top volunteers to attend your networking events.

Volunteer management involves the steps your nonprofit takes to recruit, engage, value and retain volunteers. Through effective volunteer management, your organization will build a positive experience for volunteers that contribute to a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Keep these strategies in mind while crafting your volunteer management strategy.