Volunteers make up an essential part of a nonprofit’s workforce. In fact, an estimated 25% of U.S. adult volunteers contributed an astounding 8.8 billion hours to nonprofits in 2017, making effective volunteer management vital to an organization's day-to-day operations. With so much importance placed on volunteer programs, nonprofits need to invest in smart volunteer management practices to reduce administrative overhead and increase volunteer retention.
This guide will ensure your organization is equipped with up-to-date information, best practices, and guidelines required to manage your volunteer workforce successfully.
Here is a list of topics covered in this guide:
Volunteer Management Best Practices
- Plan multi-channel marketing campaigns for finding volunteers
- Get to know your volunteers
- Optimize your orientation and training process
- Get your volunteers’ input
Conclusion & Additional Resources
What is volunteer management?
Volunteer management is the process that a nonprofit organization uses to recruit, track, engage, and retain volunteers. Simply put, it encompasses all that an organization does to manage its volunteers. By developing a strong volunteer management strategy, a nonprofit's team can build a positive and immersive volunteer experience that will help cultivate lasting, mutually-beneficial supporter relationships.
The Facets of Volunteer Management
Creating Your Volunteer Program
Before you can begin creating a new volunteer program, you first need to establish what your organization hopes to accomplish with the program. What are your goals, and how do you plan on achieving them? Once you have identified your organization's overall goal for the program, you can begin planning how volunteers can work together to achieve that goal.
Here are some things to consider when creating your volunteer program:
- What tasks need to be accomplished by your volunteers?
- What skills and qualifications do volunteers need to complete those tasks?
- How can you define volunteer roles that outline the skills and scope of work required for each task?
- What is the time frame in which you require the program to start and end?
- When do you need volunteers, and what tasks do you need to be completed within a specific time frame?
Once you have answered the above questions, you can begin to build out your volunteer program plan. Start by defining your volunteer roles and creating your program scheduling in your volunteer management software. When everything is well defined and ready to go, then you should turn your attention to how you are going to find the right volunteers for the job.
Recruiting volunteers has never been easier; there is no need to rely on a sign-up sheet on a bulletin board anymore. Digital channels offer a convenient way to find new volunteers while providing them a simple volunteer sign up process. Your organization's website is the first place interested volunteers will look for new opportunities to make an impact. Ensure you post all your current volunteer opportunities on that page. That way, a volunteer can select the opportunity they are interested in and sign up right away.
Here is a diagram of the volunteer recruitment process:
The goal of any successful volunteer recruitment plan should be to collect all the information required to place volunteers in roles where they will thrive. The simpler the sign-up process, the better. You want to ensure you are only collecting relevant information you need to assess an application accurately.
Look for a solution that offers you the flexibility to ask logic-based questions during the sign-up process, to reduce the number of fields a volunteer needs to answer. For example, if you need to know if someone is first aid certified, your form could have a yes or no response, and then if a volunteer responds yes, then the form could prompt them to provide a certificate.
The better the volunteer placement, the better the outcome for your organization and your volunteers. A volunteer should be excited about working; that is why it's essential to ask the volunteer what they would like to do. A happy volunteer shows up on time and comes back to volunteer more, helping you retain more volunteers in the long run.
Setting your volunteers up for success with the proper training is essential! Once you recruit and assign your volunteers to roles, the next step is training them for their role. Training could be as simple as a quick video or review of a task document or as complex as multiple in-person training sessions. The goal of any volunteer training is to ensure that everyone on your volunteer team can safely complete their work confidently.
Try assigning everyone a training shift in your schedule and tracking its attendance, this will ensure that no volunteer misses important training. Providing your volunteer with access to training documents, maps, and protocol documents through a mobile app will ensure everyone has access to the resources they need from anywhere.
Volunteers are the unsung heroes of most nonprofit's ongoing programming efforts and fundraising events. They’re your organization's brand and mission ambassadors in the community and directly impact your organization's success. Volunteers offer a tremendous amount of value, which is why you shouldn't overlook the importance of investing in tools and resources to help them thrive.
Here is a quick infographic that outlines the value of volunteers.
Volunteer Stewardship and Recognition
From recruitment to training, your organization has invested a lot of effort into every volunteer, and they have too in their time and hard work. That's why it is so important to continue to invest in your volunteers through stewardship and recognition efforts.
Volunteer recognition doesn't have to be a large investment. Simple messages of appreciation or certificates of recognition for your top volunteers can go a long way in making them feel appreciated and helping retain in the long run. This shouldn't be overlooked in your nonprofit volunteer management program, so make sure to include this as a vital part of operational procedures.
Volunteer Management Tools
What is volunteer management software?
Volunteer management software offers tools and features specifically designed to help increase the administrative efficiency of managing volunteer programs and events. A comprehensive volunteer management system should provide volunteer coordinators and managers with tools to recruit, screen, schedule, manage, and communicate with volunteer workforces through a single system.
Volunteer management software should also offer volunteers a smooth user experience during the sign-up and scheduling process and provide communication tools that allow them to contact their manager when volunteering. A volunteer management system's role is to eliminate any miscommunication and no-shows, reduce administrative time, and help retain volunteers.
Nonprofit Volunteer Shift Management
Volunteer scheduling and shift assignments can be among the most administrative-intensive tasks any volunteer coordinator or manager can have, but it doesn’t have to be. An excellent volunteer management software should make creating a volunteer program schedule and assigning volunteer shifts simple. Solutions like InitLive make building out your volunteer schedule simple with bulk actions, shift duplication, and drag-and-drop functionality.
Once your shift schedule is built, you can utilize all the volunteer data you collected during the signup process to assign shifts quickly. InitLive’s volunteer management solution makes this even easier with a smart rostering engine so you have the right people scheduled in the right shifts.
With our nonprofit volunteer management tools, best match recommendations are automatically generated based on qualifications, roles, availability, and shift conflicts, ensuring volunteers are matched with the best shift and role possible. Matching the right volunteer with the right shift is important to ensuring long-term volunteer retention. You don’t want to assign a volunteer a shift in an area where they are underqualified or uninterested in.
Volunteer Management Guides and Guidelines
It is important to keep up with the latest best practices and guidelines in volunteer management. By investing time in professional development and learning, you will avoid making known mistakes which will serve you and your organization well in the long run.
Here is a list of some resources to help you and your organization stay up to date on industry news, best practices, and guidelines:
- Volunteer Management Guide - 501 Commons
- Volunteer Management Academy - VolunteerPro
- Resources on COVID-19 and Volunteering-Volunteer Canada
Volunteer Management Best Practices
Plan multi-channel marketing campaigns for finding volunteers
Recruiting new volunteers to your organization requires a multi-channel marketing approach, which leverages all your existing online channels as well as partnering with other organizations to help spread the word. So you can implement effective communication practices, let’s walk through four primary outlets that will enhance your volunteer recruitment process.
If you already have a list of volunteers who have worked at previous initiatives you've organized, make them feel appreciated by giving them exclusive access to your available positions. In your email correspondence, make sure to encourage your email recipient to share these volunteer opportunities with their friends and family. Consider offering a referral thank you gift as an incentive to share.
You should always keep your volunteer opportunities webpage up to date, providing interested volunteers with an easier way to sign up for any opportunities that interest them. After all, 67% of people found volunteer opportunities online in 2014 vs. 34% in 2006, according to this volunteer statistics page. It is recommended that you ensure your volunteer web page is optimized for mobile use to ensure everyone has a great experience browsing and signing up for your opportunities.
Besides making your recruitment link available through social media, you'll want to launch a formal campaign using these channels. This is where you should be using your recruitment message. It may even be good to bring one or more of your previous volunteers on board early to help coordinate the social media.
Consider partnering with other complementary nonprofit organizations to help spread the word to a broader audience. The partnership should be a mutually beneficial one where you both support each other's recruitment efforts
Get to know your volunteers
Keeping track of your volunteers’ interests, goals and skills is very important not only to ensure they have a fulfilling experience with your organization but to ensure you are making the most of what they have to offer. A centralized volunteer database with a volunteer management software connected to your CRM offers you the best way to leverage your volunteers while providing tailored communications and volunteer opportunities specific to their interests.
Optimize your orientation and training process
Are you finding that volunteers attend your orientations and training and then don't come back? Maybe it's time to re-evaluate your volunteer onboarding and training process. You never want to overwhelm your volunteers by making them jump through too many hoops before they are able to donate their time to your organization. Keep things as simple and straightforward forward as possible and ensure you only require training that is specific to the role or task a volunteer is responsible for.
Try offering online training modules and videos, allowing volunteers to complete their training on their own time. Once a volunteer has completed their required training, it is important to track records in your volunteer database, so you don't accidentally require them to repeat any additional exercise in the future.
The goal of your volunteer training and orientation should be to set your volunteer up for success by equipping them with information and tools they need to thrive in their work. Anything that doesn't do that can result in volunteers feeling their time isn't respected, which can negatively affect retention.
Get your volunteers’ input
Volunteer surveys and feedback are essential to nonprofits and organizations that rely on volunteerism. Volunteer feedback is valuable to help improve everything from operational planning to organizational culture. Receiving insight from your volunteers can help you understand their needs and wants, which ultimately helps retention.
Consider sending a simple survey to volunteer after completing a shift or take the time to grab a coffee with some volunteers once a month and discuss how you could improve their experience. Collected feedback should be properly documented and reviewed routinely as you plan your next program or initiative.
A lot goes into successfully managing volunteers, but the rewards are well worth the work. This guide only covers the basic building blocks of volunteer management. However, we’ve created a large number of resources to help volunteer managers optimize their volunteer management processes to increase their impact and meet their organizational goals.
Here is a list of related resources you might find useful:
- The Complete Volunteer Management Guide For Nonprofits
- A Technical Guide To Retaining Volunteers
- The COVID-19 Guide To Evolving Your Volunteer Management Process
- Volunteer Management Software: 12 Apps For Your Nonprofit
If you are interested in learning more about your organization could benefit from an all-in-one volunteer management solution, our team of experts can help. Simply click the below button and fill out the form to chat with a member of our team to learn how you can start effectively managing volunteers.