According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), volunteering in the United States hit an all-time high. The 2018 Volunteering in America report found that 30.3% of U.S. adults volunteer. A majority of give their time to religious groups, followed by sports, arts, education and youth service groups.
Volunteers are not only crucial to assisting with your nonprofit’s programs. They are also proven to be very generous with their money. Although 52.2% of Americans donate to charity each year, those who volunteer donate at twice the rate.
With how much work it takes to attract dedicated volunteers, what can we do to ensure they come back? Here are four simple actions you can take to make a great first impression and increase retention.
1. Give your volunteers a warm welcome.
It is all about the first impression. Once a volunteer has committed to supporting your nonprofit, schedule an orientation for them to get to know you. You will have a lot of information to review at this initial meeting, and the welcome helps you form a genuine connection.
Set everyone at ease by creating a comfortable space, greeting them personally and calmly diving into their responsibilities. When you successfully create a safe space to welcome volunteers, they will absorb more information and feel they belong.
- Give them the opportunity to introduce themselves and share their skills, interests and background in a brief questionnaire. This is the time to ask what they would like to gain from volunteering with your organization. Many see their contributions as an opportunity to develop professional skills.
- Collect essential contact information and schedule availability.
- Review your nonprofit’s mission to ensure volunteers can speak to your cause.
- Introduce them to their job duties with a colorful and cleanly compiled welcome packet consisting of policies, detailed job descriptions and extra resources. You may also want to include articles about volunteering, information on the population you serve or tips for working with small children or animals for example.
- Share additional resources through email or create a volunteer portal on your website that includes everything in the welcome packet, plus other helpful tips and ways to track their hours.
- Emphasize the impact you are making on the community to help envision the work they will accomplish.
- Provide a simple snack for a thoughtful bonus.
2. Communicate regularly and clearly.
Don’t let your volunteer recruitment and orientation efforts go to waste. Email volunteers within two days to address questions and say thank you. If volunteers don’t hear from you right away, they will move on to another opportunity.
After volunteers have started working with you, assign a volunteer coordinator or one point person from your organization to check in and answer questions. Establishing this structure will ensure consistency and clarity. A prompt response shows you value volunteers as members of the team. Regular emails help build rapport by recognizing great work and extra efforts.
3. Ask questions to make improvements.
Volunteers have a unique perspective working with your organization, and you should encourage an open dialog asking them to share both success stories and the struggles they face. If you create a comfortable space to provide opinions and ask questions, volunteers will know you support them. Schedule check-ins between staff and volunteers along the way and invite volunteers to shadow staff if they want to learn more about your organization.
After volunteers help with a big event or have volunteered regularly, request feedback with an online follow-up survey or interview. Ask questions to see what worked well and what challenges they had. It takes time to master a volunteer management plan. Flexibility and understanding with staff and volunteers will help everyone stay calm, communicative and effective throughout the process.
4. Give your volunteers a big thank-you.
At the end of a hard day’s work, everyone benefits from a genuine “thank you!” or “good job!” Figure out your preferred way to express gratitude, and remember volunteers need to hear it. There is no wrong way to say thank you, but say it loudly. Whether you personalize cards, hold a volunteer appreciation luncheon or offer a team shirt and cold water bottle, your volunteers will take note of how you respond to their time. Keep your volunteers coming back to your organization by creating a positive experience they will remember.
Want to manage your volunteers online? Firespring offers nonprofit websites with a built-in volunteer management system that allows volunteers to apply directly on your site, sign up for shifts and more. Create calendars for upcoming events, volunteer training and orientations as well. Get a free demo at firespring.com/demo or learn more about how our customized websites can help you make an even bigger difference by calling 877.447.8941 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.