Volunteers make up an essential part of the workforce of many nonprofits. Your organization likely relies on the help of these passionate individuals to support your programs, events, and initiatives that are important to your goals and objectives.
With such an important role to play, it is critical to invest in an effective volunteer management process that not only saves your organization time but also increases volunteer recruitment, engagement, and retention to ensure long-term success.
InitLive has helped implement hundreds of customized volunteer management processes with our volunteer management solution built for organizations of all sizes and types. While every organization has its own set of goals and requirements, most require the same basic volunteer management process steps to maximize the success of their volunteer programs. This guide will offer six simple steps to creating a volunteer management process that will set your organization up for long-term success.
Here is a quick overview of the steps that we’ll cover:
Most organizations that rely on volunteers have a few common objectives or outcomes when it comes to their volunteer programs. Some common objectives are to increase volunteer recruitment, engagement, retention and evolve those volunteers into long-term supporters and donors. Before you begin creating or updating your volunteer management process, it is very important to determine your goals and objectives. Let’s dive in!
A strategic plan offers long-term guidelines for your volunteer management program, providing a clear vision to reference at all stages of the process. Before you get started with planning, you need to establish your organization’s goals for your volunteer programs.
Are you looking to grow your volunteer team with the help of new supporters, or are you looking to increase your existing volunteer teams' engagement and retention level? Are you looking to implement an entirely new volunteer program, or scale up an existing one?
Once you have determined your goals, make sure to document them, and include them in your volunteer management program’s strategic plan. Then, it's time to start defining what kind of work your volunteers will be doing in your organization and how many volunteers will be required to do the job.
Create A Staffing Plan
Next up is determining your needs through a staffing analysis. Your staffing analysis should include what tasks will need to be done and what level of expertise they require.
At this stage of planning, it is important to not only establish what your volunteers will be doing and what skills are required to do that, but you also need to figure how many volunteers will be required to manage each program or event.
This will help provide a clear vision with which to craft your volunteer personas. A volunteer persona or profile is a description of your organization’s ideal volunteer. Once you know the type of volunteer you’re looking for, you can create marketing plans and volunteer opportunities that appeal to their interests and skills.
Create a Leadership Team
Who are the people with the answers? Volunteers are no different than regular staff and require direction and support to get the job done. Creating a leadership team is essential to a successful volunteer management process.
Establish your leadership needs by reviewing your staffing analysis and considering what support your volunteer roles will require. Volunteer coordinators, shift supervisors, and team leads will ensure that your volunteers are competent and confident in their work.
Now that you have a clear plan in place and an in-depth idea of how many volunteers you need and what skills they need to get the job done, it's time to start creating a great volunteer recruitment plan.
Nowadays, when people are looking for where to volunteer, they turn to the internet. The number of volunteer opportunities available online is practically limitless. With so many opportunities available to potential volunteers, it is more important than ever to create a compelling and proactive online volunteer recruitment strategy.
Consider what information a potential volunteer would need or want to know before signing up to work for your organization. This is your opportunity to share your mission and describe all the incredible work your volunteers do to positively impact the world. The more detailed information you can offer potential volunteers about your program, shifts, or roles, the more likely they are to sign up to join your team.
Taking the time to define your volunteer roles before launching your volunteer recruitment campaign ensures you will recruit the right people. Plus, you can tailor your volunteer sign-up process to collect all the information you need to match volunteers with the right roles.
Define your Roles
The first stage of the recruitment process is all about finding the right people for the right roles. Using your staffing analysis, it's time to start defining each of your volunteer role requirements. These explanations should include the following.
Role Titles - Use a descriptive, self-explanatory title that is easily understood by your volunteers and staff.
Detail - Include a high-level description that explains what the role is and the tasks that will need to be performed.
Skill qualifications- Mention the skills and qualifications required to do the tasks.
Certification - Don’t forget to list any necessary certifications, background checks, or other requirements that volunteers will need to work this role.
Once you created your roles, you can now build out your registration form with skill and certification-based questions to streamline your volunteer onboarding and scheduling process. Once everything is all set up and ready to go, it’s time to start sharing your volunteer opportunities with the world.
Spread the WordAfter you’ve defined your volunteer roles and created your registration form, it's time to start recruiting new volunteers. The easiest way to spread the word is by sharing your beautifully branded volunteer sign-up page through your marketing channels.
Use these marketing tips to guide you:
Invite your current volunteer list first - If you already have a list of volunteers who have worked at previous events or opportunities, make them feel appreciated by giving them exclusive access to the new positions you have available.
Share your recruitment link- Include your sign-up link on social media, your website, email, and direct mailers. Encourage your current volunteers to share the link with their friends and family as well.
Launch a prominent social media campaign- Besides making your recruitment link available through social media, you'll want to launch a formal campaign using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It may even be a good idea to bring one or more of your previous volunteers on board early to help coordinate your social media outreach. They can create and schedule posts promoting your opportunities to ensure you’re providing enough information for prospective volunteers.
The more channels you use to recruit new volunteers, the more likely you are to meet your recruitment goals, making it well worth the effort. Once you have recruited your volunteers, it’s time to turn your attention to scheduling.
Now that you have a team, it's time to start refining your volunteer schedule. Many factors go into scheduling volunteers, so using a volunteer scheduling tool like InitLive can help you build your shifts and roster your volunteers efficiently.
When it comes to scheduling, the more defined your shifts are, the easier it is for volunteers to understand exactly what they are supposed to do when and where. Well-defined shifts can eliminate a day of confusion and frustration for both your volunteers and your staff.
Establish Times and Locations
When you are building out your volunteer schedule in your volunteer management solution, it is important to establish when and where you need your volunteers to be at the start of their shift. The last thing you want to do is make volunteers face frustration and confusion before they even get started. To avoid any issues, it helps to define the location and time for each volunteer shift:
Establish your locations - Where are the volunteers working? Provide the address of the location and parking information for your volunteers. Then, consider adding more detailed instructions that are specific to the shift. You might say, “please arrive at the information tent, front gate, or first aid station.” The more detailed your directions are, the more likely it will be that volunteers will show up at the right place.
Determine Your Shift Times - Determine when you need people and the length of your shifts based on the activities volunteers are participating in. For example, a physically demanding job should have shorter shifts. Make sure to add some buffer time between shift changes to cover any late arrivals.
Remember, new volunteers in particular may face anxiety when arriving at your opportunity. Reassure them by providing clear instructions and offering a convenient check-in process when they arrive.
Determine and Assign Roles
Now that you have determined when and where you need your volunteers for your program, it is time to define what needs to be done and who are the best people to get those tasks done. At this point in the scheduling process, you can now harness the detailed roles you have already defined and start applying them to your shifts. When building a shift, do the following:
Determine the Roles Needed- What roles are required to get the job done? For example, do you need a driver and/or waste management people for an environmental cleanup shift? Or do you need animal lovers to help walk the dogs at your shelter? Each shift will have a series of tasks — it is up to you to assign the relevant volunteer roles to ensure those tasks can be completed. You can also assign multiple roles to a single shift if the task requires different skills. It is also important to establish the minimum and a maximum number of volunteers per role so all volunteers know where they should be at all times.
Roster Your Team - Once you have defined your volunteer opportunity, it's time to start matching the right volunteers to the right roles and shifts. You can either allow volunteers complete freedom to pick their own shifts or assign shifts based on skills and availability.
Now that you have your scheduling complete, next up is ensuring all your volunteers have the right training to do a great job.
Equipping your volunteers with the tools and training they need to do a good job is essential to your success. Whether it is a quick online course, a user guide, or in-person training, it's all worth the investment.
Investing in volunteer training not only ensures volunteers can complete their task but also helps retain volunteers over time. Volunteers will feel more empowered when they are equipped with the right information and resources to carry out their assignments well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when training your volunteers:
Provide Effective Resources
Your volunteers have a lot on their plates between work and their personal lives. They are taking time out of their schedules to help your organization, which makes every minute of their time valuable. The last thing you want to do is waste their time with a long and irrelevant training process before they even get a chance to volunteer for your organization.
Here are a couple of tips to ensure you are training your volunteers effectively while respecting their time:
Make your training accessible - Training should be accessible for everyone. Keep in mind that not everyone can attend an in-person meeting. Consider offering online courses or live streaming your training lessons for those who can't make it to the training location. The more training options there are, the better because you can open your opportunities to more people.
Be concise - Training should be digestible; you don't want to waste people's time. Stick to simple lessons and brief communications.
Set Expectations and Track Learning
You want to ensure that all your volunteers receive the training they need to do a great job in their volunteer roles. With so many volunteers who have different training needs, it can be a lot to keep track of. Technology can come in handy here.
Keep track of your volunteer training in your volunteer management solution. Top-quality solutions offer custom training tagging to ensure every volunteer is trained correctly before they can start working.
When you create your training program, make sure to include the following:
Set expectations - Communicate expectations to all your volunteers. This includes dress codes, codes of conduct, and the chain of command. You will also need to clearly communicate what training courses or lessons each volunteer needs to complete before their shift.
Use a volunteer management tool to share relevant documents - Offering a single standardized source of truth for volunteers at this stage is critical. Consider investing in a mobile app that offers volunteer access to all documentation, shift information, and communications. In this tool, you can track what training each volunteer has completed before they start a shift, ensuring that no volunteer is left without access to the information they need.
By this point, you have planned everything, so now it's time to start getting things done. At this stage, it's time to think about facilitating work and delegating management to your leadership team.
Effective volunteer management is essential to ensuring that everything runs smoothly and is also integral to delivering a great volunteer experience. Remember, the better the experience your volunteers have, the more likely they are to return to give more of their time to your cause.
At this point, your volunteers have been given the training and information they need to do a great job. Now, it's up to your team supervisors to help your volunteers excel by offering them support whenever they need it. Here are a few volunteer management tips to ensure everything runs smoothly:
Handle the Logistics
There can be a lot of logistics to manage when it comes to volunteer programs and events. The last thing you want to do is miss something important or create confusion among your team. Here are a couple of strategies to help you and your team manage the logistics of your volunteer program:
Optimize your check-in process - Ensure your supervisors are checking in volunteers efficiently as they arrive. This will allow you to manage no-shows and late volunteers throughout the day in real-time and review volunteer performance later.
Communicate - Keep your teams informed throughout the day as things change. Communicate through your mobile app to individuals or teams to ensure that they can respond quickly to changes in circumstances.
Now that you can keep track of your team in real-time with the right technology, it's important to ensure that every volunteer feels valued and supported during their work and after they have finished.
It's your leadership's team job to support your organization’s volunteers whenever they need help and keep them engaged and motivated to continue to do great work. In order to accomplish this, consider the following tips:
Offer mobile support - Offer your volunteers an easy way to ask questions anywhere and anytime with a volunteer mobile app. You can also make them feel more supported by offering them a break area with water and snacks to provide an energy boost.
Express appreciation- When it comes to volunteer retention, appreciation is the golden ticket. Whether it is a simple thank you as your volunteers leave, a token such as a free t-shirt or water bottle, or a more significant statement of gratitude like a personal phone call, appreciation efforts make a difference to your volunteers.
The final stage in the volunteer management process is to evaluate and optimize your existing plans to get even better results next time. When you understand how your volunteers are finding your organization, which opportunities they’re most interested in, and their preferred communication platforms, you can tailor your marketing efforts and opportunities to be more appealing in the future.
To evaluate the success of your volunteer management process, you should:
The most accurate way to evaluate your volunteer program is by harnessing the data in your volunteer management solutions. Pull reports to evaluate your performance in the following areas:
Volunteer attendance - This will give you a good idea of how many of your volunteers actually show up and which shifts or roles have a high no-show rate. This gives you a chance to adjust and improve those problem areas.
Total Hours Worked - Using this report, you can measure the average number of volunteer hours worked and then calculate the value of an average volunteer. This data is great for planning and can also be used in grant applications.
Communications - Tracking all your communications with your volunteers provides insight into how much communication is required to ensure your volunteers are engaged and are likely to come back to volunteer again.
Volunteer Performance - Supervisors can rate your volunteer’s performance, and you can then pull a report to identify particularly effective volunteers and craft personalized thank-you messages to those individuals.
Volunteer Experience - When you maintain information on your supporters’ volunteer experience history, you can invite them to work similar shifts in the future.
Talk to Volunteers
One of the best ways to evaluate your volunteer program and management process is to simply ask for feedback from your volunteers. Once they have finished working a shift, or at the end of an event or program, consider sending all your volunteers a survey.
This survey can help collect informative data points about your volunteers’ experience and any areas in need of improvement. Ask volunteers questions like:
What was your favorite aspect of the volunteer opportunity and why?
What was your least favorite aspect and why?
Did you feel the volunteer training was sufficient?
What could we have done to make the experience more rewarding?
Would you volunteer with our organization again?
Would you recommend our volunteer opportunities to a friend?
Once you have this feedback, you can then make changes to your volunteer management process based on volunteers’ comments, ensuring that you are always improving on your process to provide the best volunteer experience possible.
Now that you have learned about the crucial steps of a volunteer management process, it's time to start implementing these tips into your organization. Every minute that you invest in planning a great volunteer management process is well worth the effort to ensure that your organization can recruit, engage, and retain more volunteers, transforming them into long-term supporters.
If you are looking to learn a little more about volunteer management tips and the tools to help you implement them, check out all the great resources below:
Volunteer Engagement | Strategies for Smart Organizations. This article explores how your organization can ensure every volunteer has a meaningful and positive experience through a well-thought-out volunteer engagement strategy.
Volunteer Management Software: FAQ +18 Top Solutions. Check out this article to get a comprehensive list of volunteer management software providers to help your organization find the right solution.
Corporate Volunteerism: The Complete Guide For 2021. Explore this article to know what corporate volunteerism is, its benefits, and how to create an engaging program for your nonprofit.