We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—without volunteers, nonprofit organizations would simply fail. It may sound extreme but it’s no exaggeration. Volunteers are a huge part of the livelihood of nonprofit organizations and helping them achieve their missions.
They are crucial to assist with organizational programs, events, fundraising and more. As an added bonus, volunteers also tend to be generous with making donations. With so much responsibility at stake, let’s talk about how you can get the right people on board to volunteer with your organization and then how to keep them coming back for years to come.
Recruiting the right volunteers
Where, oh where, do you find the right people to volunteer? Luckily, we have some ideas for you!
1. Ask current volunteers to bring their friends/family. If a loved one already has a passion for your organization, chances are, their family and friends might also love to volunteer. Encourage your current volunteers to bring a loved one. Hold a special event where they can get to know the organization in a fun, laid back atmosphere.
2. Re-engage with former volunteers. Just because a volunteer hasn’t been by in awhile doesn’t mean they’ve totally forgotten about you and your mission. Life is busy, and they may simply need a reminder. Look at your lapsed volunteers and send an email or give them a call to let them know about new opportunities that are available.
3. Reach out to local businesses. For example, Firespring has a volunteer program and is continually looking to partner with and promote local organizations looking for volunteers. Turns out, we aren’t alone! Almost 60% of companies provide paid time off (PTO) for employees to volunteer. Sync up with local businesses to promote your mission.
4. Advertise with direct mail, paid social ads, email marketing or signage. If you don’t tell people you’re looking for volunteers, they may never know! Use marketing tactics to let potential volunteers know about your mission and what you need volunteers to do. Tell heartfelt stories about what their support could do for your organization.
5. Make your volunteer opportunities fun! It’s important to inject some fun into your volunteer opportunities. 35% of volunteers said one of the reasons they volunteer is to socialize. Volunteering is very important work, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all work and no play. Consider giving out prizes to volunteers or giving them a number of hours to work toward for a special volunteer status.
How to Retain Volunteers
Now that you’ve got ‘em, you want to hold on to your volunteers and never let them go! It starts from the moment they begin with your organization, so pay attention to the details and use these tips to begin the retention process.
1. Give your volunteers a warm welcome. Create a welcome packet with information they’ll need to succeed and some swag to represent your organization. Assign other volunteers or staff to check in and make sure they feel welcomed. Express your thanks via a handwritten note. Remember that small touches can go a long way when they feel truly welcomed into your organization.
2. Communicate regularly and clearly. Like many things in life, communication is key. Ensuring your volunteers know what they’re doing, how to do it and why you do it is essential. Communicate about your mission and how the work they’ll be doing is making an impact toward achieving your mission. They’ll feel more connected to the cause!
3. Ask questions to make improvements. Volunteers leave organizations for a variety of reasons, many of which are preventable when you ask the right questions. Survey your volunteers on a regular basis to find out what would make the experience better for them. How can you keep them fulfilled? What isn’t working and what is?
4. Send birthday, anniversary and special occasion cards. Remember that it’s not all about your organization! Take note of special occasions in your volunteers’ lives and make sure to recognize them. It’s important to cultivate the relationships with your volunteers on a personal level, too.
5. Thank your volunteers and recognize them in the ways they prefer. Some volunteers want their recognition loud and proud in front of others, while others prefer to be thanked in private with a note or message. Find out how your volunteers like to be thanked and stick to the plan!
It’s time to put these tactics into action! You can get monthly success coaching from our nonprofit specialist, Kiersten Hill. She’ll give you tactical guidance on recruiting volunteers, keeping volunteers, management, marketing, fundraising, board development and so much more. Reach out today to learn more!