4 Best Practices for Developing Engaging Volunteer Orientations
Your volunteer orientations are one of the first touches you have with supporters.
- Is your orientation process creating value and engagement?
- How does your nonprofit organization train volunteers to excel in their role?
- Are you using training as an opportunity to teach your mission and goals?
Volunteer orientations present the opportunity to make a good first impression. They also allow your organization to get to know supporters, build relationships between volunteers, communicate your mission and confirm that volunteers understand their commitment to the cause.
Your nonprofit should not underestimate the importance of good onboarding for volunteers. According to statistics, 58% of people are more likely to commit time to an organization with a structured onboarding program. Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity. It is important to consider a volunteer as a hire and provide them with value in exchange for their sacrifice. Finding the right volunteers, training them and supporting them will help your nonprofit nurture growth long-term.
Here are four best practices to consider when developing volunteer orientations with engagement in mind.
Optimize Your Volunteer Orientations for Different Learning Types
People learn and comprehend information in different ways. Some volunteers may be visual learners while others may digest information better through hands-on experience. Make sure that your volunteer orientations cater to all learning types. The best way to achieve this is by first providing volunteers with an example, followed by an action.
In other words, demonstrate how to perform a job function and then allow volunteers to try to replicate. Provide volunteers with resources that they can refer to before, during and after their orientation. Doing so will appeal to volunteers who learn best from an interpersonal standpoint. When optimizing volunteer orientations for different learning types, always consider your audience and their needs. Getting volunteers involved in the training program makes orientation more fun and engaging for supporters.
Always Ask Volunteers for Feedback
Feedback can help your nonprofit gauge insights that improve your volunteer program. Obtaining feedback about your volunteer orientations can help you improve them. Feedback provides the insights necessary to remove weaknesses and leverage strengths. How do volunteers feel about training? Are there components of your current training process that could be removed or improved? Are your volunteer orientations pushing supporters away or compelling them to make long-term investments into giving with your organization?
A Harvard Business Review survey found that engagement leads to an increase in employee/volunteer value of four times. Asking for feedback from the beginning is a great way to build a relationship based on engagement. Consider adding questions about volunteer orientation experience to your organization’s volunteer satisfaction survey.
Partner New Volunteers with Experienced Ones
One of the best ways to make new volunteers feel welcome, comfortable and valuable is by providing them with an experienced volunteer as a mentor. Experienced volunteers can show new volunteers how to overcome obstacles, be efficient and drive the most value in their chosen role. Mentorship is also a great way to create friendships and create an avenue for introducing new volunteers to your organization’s team.
A survey, completed by Management Mentors, found that creating a mentorship leads to higher retention, improved morale, increased competency and reduced training costs.
After volunteer orientations make sure your organization is communicating opportunities for involvement strategically. Communications should be personalized, frequent, and provide supporters with value. Volunteer management software can help your nonprofit move away from manual communications and streamline your organization’s communication efforts. Volunteer management technology can substantially reduce the number of resources your nonprofit needs to invest in communication, recruitment and program analysis.
One of your first touch points with supporters is during volunteer orientations. When executed strategically, training can be a great opportunity to convert volunteers to advocates. Make sure that your orientation process is optimized for different learning types, asks volunteers for feedback, provides volunteers with mentors, and communicates opportunities frequently to increase volunteer involvement.
Eric Burger is the director of marketing for BetterGood, an organization that creates exciting products, including VolunteerHub, that help organizations touch lives and make an impact within their communities. Eric has worked in the business-to-business software industry for eight years and has more than 12 years of experience in digital marketing.