For many nonprofits, volunteers play an essential part in carrying out the organization's mission. But for a lot of these organizations, taking a critical look at their volunteer management strategy (if they even have one) is the last thing on a very long to-do list. Organizations tend to run their volunteer programs the way they always have, rather than trying to improve them. These top five best practices for volunteer management will help update and enhance your volunteer program.
Create Job Descriptions
Do your volunteers know exactly what you want them to do? Do they know what qualifies them to be a volunteer? Do they know who to go to with problems or questions?
Your volunteers deserve a title and a job description that answers these questions, just like anyone else at your organization. A volunteer's job description should include:
- What the volunteer job entails, including how many hours and how frequently you want their help.
- What qualifies them to be a volunteer
- Who they report to
- How the work they do contributes to the organization's objectives and goals
- What they will get out of the experience
Getting specific about the above items will not only clarify things for your current volunteers, but it will help you recruit new volunteers as well.
To learn more about volunteer role descriptions check out -Recruiting Volunteers: How to Match the Right Volunteer to the Right Role
Value Your Volunteers
You know that everyone in your organization appreciates your volunteers, but do your volunteers know that? Sending a mass "thank you" email after a volunteer event is nice, but it's not enough. Volunteers want to know that they are known—so any chance you have to thank them personally, take it. Tracking volunteer hours through your volunteer manage solution provides you insight on who your top performing volunteers are. Helping you recognize them for all their efforts.
Do you give volunteer awards? Do you celebrate National Volunteer Week? Do staff members in other programs know your volunteers? Consider making your showings of thankfulness more personal, more meaningful, and more frequent.
It can be intimidating to show up as a new volunteer at a project site. No one knows you, and you aren't totally sure how to go about the work at hand. Organizations can alleviate this uncomfortable first experience by creating an orientation for new volunteers.
The orientation should cover an introduction to the organization, rules and expectations, and exactly how to do each job. Key staff members who are involved with volunteers should be present at the meeting to introduce themselves and meet the new recruits.
Define Goals and Measure Success
Your volunteer program is just like any other program in your organization in that it needs clear goals and ways of measuring success. Frequently measuring success will help your organization communicate the impact of your volunteers and fine-tune your volunteer program for success. Things to cover in your goals might include volunteer satisfaction, volunteer attendance, volunteer recruitment, the dollar value of volunteer work, etc.
Create a Budget
Just because your volunteers are working for free, doesn't mean that your volunteer program is free for your organization. There are expenses related to running a volunteer program, and these should be written out as line items in a budget. Here are some typical line items for a volunteer program:
- Recruitment materials
- Training materials
- Background checks (if necessary)
- Project materials
- Volunteer recognition
- Staff time dedicated to volunteer program
- Supporting volunteers (food, travel, reimbursements, etc.)
Volunteers want to know that their work is contributing to your organization's mission. They want to feel known, appreciated, and informed, and they want to have a good experience. Implementing these five best practices will help ensure that your volunteers are more plugged, more encouraged, more motivated, and more productive.