Unlocking Volunteer Potential: Strategies for Impactful Nonprofit Engagement
Volunteers are the backbone of the nonprofit world. They fill gaps in your human resources, connect you with your community and are a guiding force behind your organizational energy. If you’re like most nonprofits, you are searching constantly for new strategies for engaging volunteers.
It is challenging to fully unlock volunteer potential. An example of an universal issue that nonprofits face is turnover amongst volunteers. Studies show that it hovers anywhere between 24% and 47% (opens as a pdf).
Spending countless hours to recruit and train volunteers only to have up to half of them never engage again is a loss of time and resources. It’s also a loss of possibility.
That is why organizations are integrating new tools, like volunteer management software powered with artificial intelligence. The best platforms can help organizations streamline administration to improve volunteer experiences, and ultimately improve volunteer recruitment and retention. Here are a few strategies to achieve impactful nonprofit engagement.
1. Know Your Volunteers
Providing better and more consistent communication, connecting volunteers with your impact and showing gratitude are all wonderful ways to improve nonprofit engagement. You can’t effectively do any of those things, however, until you fully understand with whom you are connecting.
Who exactly are your volunteers? What are their demographics? And why do they work with you?
These are critical questions to understand your base of support and begin to unlock their full potential. Volunteers are already helping you, so you have their support, their passion and their ear. Understanding what drives them will help you communicate more effectively with them, better retain them and improve your recruitment strategies.
You can ask your volunteers in a questionnaire or survey and compile feedback. To help you, take advantage of technology that engages volunteers to create profiles and clearly state their interests and desired work experiences. This way the organizations can match with like-minded prospects, and those same prospects can find your opportunities.
2. Create Meaningful Opportunities for Nonprofit Engagement
Once you really know who your volunteers are, you will have a clearer picture of what types of opportunities they are looking for. Creating a menu of different volunteer options to fill each of their palates will not only appease the volunteers, but it will help you generate more impact.
Virtual or in person? Where do they want to work? You should have a mix of some flexible opportunities for those who want to work from home or attend fixed events.
Social or behind a desk? Some volunteers crave administrative or planning work, while others want to be the head of a committee or the emcee at your event. Creating different opportunities will help you unlock more volunteer potential.
Ongoing or one-off? Some volunteers want consistent opportunities while others like to give back a few days a year all at once.
Fundraising or program? Some volunteers like to help with fundraisers and others want to get involved with your program beneficiaries. If you only focus on fundraising events, you might be missing out on volunteer potential.
3. Improve Your Communication With Volunteers
Communication has components. These include method, frequency and style.
How often and in which ways should you reach out to volunteers? Technology solutions can help you automate those processes based on preference feedback from volunteers. That way, you are always getting the answer right.
Style is also important. You want to make sure you are including your organizational impact language into your messaging with volunteers to help them feel like their work has meaning. You also want to make sure to be personal with your styling, using first and second person language and helping them to feel part of your culture and family.
Impactful Nonprofit Engagement Always Includes Recognition
Thank your volunteers consistently and constantly. They are dedicating their time and resources to help you achieve your mission. If you do not show your gratitude in meaningful ways, they may look elsewhere for opportunities to give back.
Recognition and thanking can be simple, however. The day after an event, for instance, an organization may take the time to personally text every volunteer who helped. The message should be gracious and also specific, mentioning the amount of time they contributed and a personal detail if appropriate.
Show them the impact they helped you achieve to make them feel like part of the bigger picture. Something like this:
“Hi Kelly, thanks for coming out yesterday. We see that you logged 4.5 hours, your entire afternoon! Thanks for that amazing contribution, time spent away from your own daughters. With help from friends like you, we were able to raise $27,235 for kids at the center to keep their tutors. Wow! We can’t wait to see your big smile again at the next event.”
Larger recognition, beyond simple words of thanks, helps too. This may include hosting annual volunteer appreciation events or integrating perks, like the potential to earn prizes with volunteer credits, into your program.
Understanding your volunteers, generating amazing opportunities, communicating well, and saying “thank you” are the most practical strategies for engaging volunteers. You can boost your retention and recruitment by focusing there. Making volunteers happy and unlocking their true potential helps everyone!
Volunteer management software can eliminate the paperwork and automate your processes to improve your capacity to accomplish those goals. It can even help you be more proactive in understanding your volunteers, creating new channels for communication and feedback that help you build a stronger community based on their own desires and goals.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
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