7 Tips for a Great Volunteer Experience
In a small nonprofit, time is precious. You likely have more to do than you can possibly get done, so how do you manage it? One common solution is to recruit volunteers to help.
Sometimes when I mention volunteers in trainings or to time-crunched nonprofit directors, I see eyes rolling. It seems that many have had bad experiences with volunteers. Personally, I've had great experiences recruiting and utilizing volunteers.
Volunteers can add a lot to your organization. They can bring specific expertise that you need or provide extra hands to get tasks done. They're usually enthusiastic about the work done by the nonprofit and excited for the opportunity to help. Plus, when they have a good experience volunteering, they turn into incredible ambassadors for the organization, spreading the word about the good work you do.
Done right, recruiting and using volunteers can be a huge blessing. Done poorly, they're headaches. So how do you manage volunteers right? Here are seven tips to make sure that both your volunteers and you have a mutually beneficial experience.
Be clear about volunteer jobs
Be clear about what you need volunteers to do. Before you begin recruiting, spend some time thinking through what you want help with. Make a list of tasks to be done, being as specific as possible. Written job descriptions are ideal but not necessary. Don't expect volunteers to know what needs to be done. If you put this expectation on the volunteers, be prepared for some frustrated volunteers. They'll look to you to tell them what needs to be done and how to do it.
Recruit for ongoing jobs
It's best to recruit volunteers for ongoing jobs vs. one-time jobs. For example, if you need help with data entry or filing, then recruit someone to come in one or two afternoons each week to help with these tasks. You'll spend a little time training in the beginning, but it will pay off quickly. Ongoing volunteers become an extension of your staff, and it's easy to think of them and treat them like staff. Just remember to thank them regularly for their huge commitment to your organization!