Good volunteer management means higher volunteer retention rates. Creating a strong volunteer community within your nonprofit gives supporters a chance to truly connect with your mission in action. Keeping volunteers happy in their positions also increases your chances of being able to cultivate them into donors.
If you’re looking to start or enhance your existing volunteer program, taking some time to improve your volunteer management strategies can make a big difference. Below, we cover five best practices to establish an effective volunteer management process.
1. Approach Volunteer Positions Like Job Positions
Since supporters are donating their time with your organization, you may be inclined to leave your volunteer positions as flexible as possible to keep as many of them on board as you can. However, too much flexibility may actually have the opposite effect and lead to less engaged volunteers.
While there are clear differences between a job position and a volunteer role, you can incorporate some of the approaches you’d take toward hiring new staff into your volunteer management strategy.
Roles and Responsibilities
First, develop a clear list of roles and responsibilities to guide each of your volunteer positions. Doing so helps both you and the volunteer. You are able to:
- Plan for the resources needed to support the role
- Determine how to best train the volunteer
- Understand how the volunteer will fill needed gaps within your nonprofit
Your volunteer is able to enter the position with a good understanding of how to manage their time and what will be expected of them. This gives them a goal to work toward and a sense of accomplishment once they complete it.
Next, consider conducting interviews with your volunteers before they start their positions. This gives you a chance to better gauge their interests and skills to know where they’d best fit in your nonprofit. Getting to know your volunteers upfront gives you the opportunity to suggest available roles to them that are suited for what they’ve shared with you, which can lead to more enjoyable experiences.
Finally, establish a clear schedule around when and where a person will volunteer. Know whether they are taking on a one-time, short-term, or long-term position. Based on their commitment, you can either tell them all the details for your one-day event or work with them to decide regular days, hours, and stations where they’ll report. Having a set schedule adds an extra level of commitment to the role that can help encourage your volunteers’ likelihood of maintaining it.
2. Conduct Annual Volunteer Surveys
An excellent, but sometimes overlooked way to learn how to better your volunteer program is by asking your volunteers for their suggestions. Conduct an annual survey with your volunteers with questions such as:
- Do you feel like you received the training you needed for this role?
- Have you ever felt either bored or overworked in your position?
- Do you have a good understanding of what’s expected of you?
- Would you rate our volunteer program as being well-organized?
- Do you plan to continue to volunteer with us? Why or why not?
- What is your favorite part about volunteering with us?
- What are some suggestions you have for ways we can improve our volunteer program?
- Are there roles you’d like to fill as a volunteer that we don’t currently offer?
- Have you felt welcomed and appreciated throughout the year by our staff?
- Are there new skills you’ve learned while volunteering that have been useful to you?
- Can you see the impact your service is having toward our mission?
You can also conduct exit surveys for past volunteers to gain a better understanding of why they left and how you might mitigate future departures.
3. Provide Opportunities for Greater Ownership
When you make volunteers feel like a valued member of your team, they are more likely to continue their support with your organization. One way to do this is to provide opportunities for volunteers to take on greater ownership of their roles at your nonprofit.
For example, you might:
- Ask long-term volunteers if they’re interested in mentoring or training new volunteers.
- Have experienced volunteers fill a leadership role for a group volunteer activity.
- Consider special uniforms, shirts, or swag for volunteers to wear so they stand out as valued members of your nonprofit.
- Look for volunteers who may be good to move into a role on your Board of Directors.
4. Show Volunteers You Appreciate Them
Ensuring volunteers feel appreciated for their time and effort is critical to retaining them as ongoing supporters of your work. You can incorporate appreciation into your volunteer management plan through activities such as:
- Hosting an annual award ceremony where you honor your volunteers
- Giving your volunteers shoutouts on social media
- Encouraging volunteers to list their volunteer work on their LinkedIn profiles and leaving them recommendations based on their service
- Providing freebies or incentives, such as discounts in your museum shop or a free membership depending on what your nonprofit does
- Introducing them to staff across your organization
5. Hire a Volunteer Coordinator
Coordinating volunteers effectively can be a full-time job. If you have the budget, consider hiring a designated volunteer manager to ensure the program runs as smoothly as it can. The staff member who fills this role will be in charge of tasks like:
- Conducting and analyzing volunteer surveys
- Implementing appreciation activities
- Recruiting and interviewing new volunteers
- Coordinating volunteer schedules
- Stewarding long-term volunteers into roles with greater ownership potential
A volunteer coordinator can also collaborate with your development team to identify volunteers worth cultivating into new donors or organize special volunteer opportunities for corporate sponsors and major donors.
Use Volunteer Management to Build Relationships That Last
Good volunteer management is about connecting with your volunteers in a meaningful way that increases their sense of belonging within your nonprofit. As you create these volunteer communities, you nurture committed supporters who are more likely to become lifelong donors and friends of your work.
Instil's holistic relationship management platform is designed with volunteer management best practices built-in, to make your work easier and more impactful. Learn more here!