Valuing volunteers is key to the success of any nonprofit organization. Whether their role is facilitating strategic planning sessions or placing phone calls, they help nonprofits stay afloat. Volunteers serve in leadership roles and help in building stronger communities. They are essential to the work of charity organizations and fundraising, and valuing them is crucial to volunteer retention.
Volunteer Retention and Diversity
The biggest demographic of volunteers are white women between 40 and 60. While you want to keep attracting this devoted group, find ways to recruit a diverse culture of volunteers. Recruiting and retaining more volunteers equates with doing more. We all like to work alongside our peers and feel a sense of belonging. Volunteer retention is higher when you establish such an environment.
If your volunteers are quitting after one year, follow up with them. Ask if they felt like they fit in. Find out how you can better support volunteers through their feedback. Create a dialogue with those who leave, and current volunteers. Find out how you can change with the changing volunteer space.
Volunteers need to feel welcome in working alongside your staff. Make it a priority for your nonprofit board and staff to focus on diversity. Hire a diversity expert to facilitate classes, and continually learn how important inclusion is. Find more information on diversity inclusion for your success.
How can you employ volunteer recruitment for an inclusive culture?
- Build relationships with diverse groups and “ask” them for help through volunteering. Work hard at this and attend cultural events – reach out to culturally-specific organizations and be open about your intent – partner with churches and universities.
- Host an open house advertising for volunteers of all cultures, races, ages and gender groups – list skill sets you need in your ads. Invite questions, opinions and suggestions.
- Regularly engage in public speaking – openly discuss your desire for an inclusive culture of volunteers, board members and staff. Speak at churches, universities and community organizations.
- Advertise for skill based volunteer opportunities. Attract recent immigrants who benefit by building their resume and learning from you. Go beyond the language of “volunteer” and ask for their help.
- Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are a great way to attract young volunteers. Visuals appeal to young audiences. Young volunteers of the same age range tend to share their photos and stories on social media platforms. A chance for them to meet new friends by working together is an alluring incentive. Recruitment in person also works with this audience in visiting universities and youth groups.
Volunteer Retention Incentives
We humans like to be acknowledged. We like incentives to keep us working and giving at full steam.
How can your nonprofit provide incentives to volunteers?
- Social gatherings, meetings and fundraising events that include food and drinks are well attended and fun.
- Baseball caps are useful items to everyone, and spread the word of your nonprofit.
- Event t-shirts give volunteers the experience of feeling proud each time they wear it.
- Photos of volunteers on your website, newsletter, and social media platforms warm the hearts of all.
- Group photos and stories in newspaper articles serve to acknowledge your volunteers.
- Gift certificates don’t have to be of high value to make someone feel acknowledged. Partner with large retail stores to give back and donate items for certificates. And offer retailers a little acknowledgement too.
- Certificates of thanks are nice mementos for volunteers. Find inexpensive ways to create these with the help of volunteer graphic design students.
- Partner with schools and offer class credit for volunteer participation.
- Create employer matching opportunities and suggest time-off for employees who volunteer.
- Work with universities and high schools to establish internships.
- Offer letters of recommendation to young volunteers just entering the work force. Offer writing help for including volunteer work on resumes.
- Encourage sports teams, community organization teams and families to volunteer together on special projects.
- Ask volunteers what incentives they would like!
- Work tirelessly at establishing a workplace where all your volunteers feel a sense of belonging.
Keeping Up With Volunteer Trends
We are fast becoming a more digitized and virtual society with an increase online volunteering. People are looking for opportunities in digital volunteering on a global level. Connecting energetically and giving of our hearts is now done digitally.
Bring more diversity in volunteerism to your nonprofit by reaching a global audience with virtual volunteering. Virtual or digital volunteers work by phone and online to help nonprofits with marketing, management, IT and research. Virtual volunteering allows employees, in partnership with nonprofits, to work on projects without scheduling confines.
How can your nonprofit provide such opportunities and make virtual volunteer recruitment a priority?
- Add a section on virtual volunteering to your nonprofit website defining your needs. Make it easy for global volunteers to connect with your organization.
- Allow digital volunteers to tell you of their skill-set, and come what may. Ask them for suggestions to innovate your nonprofit.
- Research and seek opportunities to partner with corporations to recruit digital volunteers.
- Keep an open dialogue with virtual volunteers as to how you can support them.
- Schedule phone conferences on specific projects, and on volunteer recruitment.
Volunteers in Leadership Roles
Ask volunteers what skills and passions they bring to you. Nonprofits too often tell them what they need. Engage volunteers in defining their role. Volunteers are already connected with your mission when they first contact you. Many volunteers come from management roles in their profession and have a plan to offer you. Let them lead and innovate. Young volunteers have yet a different life view, skill-set and innovative direction to offer.
Volunteer Management Training
Does your nonprofit have a budget for volunteer training? How you invest in them is equal to investing in your staff. They want to help you succeed. By training them to their fullest potential, you elevate yours. Volunteer retention is greater when you keep the interests of volunteers high. Your nonprofit grows with how much you invest in volunteers.
Volunteer Management Strategies
There are key features you can take advantage of with your volunteer management software. Wired Impact Volunteer Management is a free WordPress plugin which gives you a simple but powerful way to track your volunteers. If you embed this plugin on your WordPress nonprofit website your volunteers can easily sign up on your site.
Nonprofit websites help in making volunteer data easily accessible. Matching their skills with the tasks of your nonprofit becomes easier. Keeping an open line of communication with volunteers is not so easily lost. Sending emails to teams of volunteers and staff on specific projects and staying organized is manageable. Nonprofit websites with cutting-edge technology effect your ability to reach and communicate with volunteers. Volunteer management software has the power to impact the experience of volunteers which leads to volunteer retention.
How you communicate with donors, members and volunteers is another key factor. When you look at all supporters as potential volunteers you broaden your recruitment. Emails you would typically only send to volunteers can be sent to donors and members too. Your nonprofit website can help manage these email lists.
In summary, volunteer retention comes down to a sense of being fully engaged, valued and belonging. There are many ways to support volunteers, yet asking them what they need is the most winning. Keeping an open line of communication and realizing they are individuals is of essence.