To recruit and retain good volunteers, you must create assignments that advance your organization’s cause and benefit the volunteers who participate. In this article, we’ll provide you with five tips for organizing volunteers, including how to increase volunteer involvement and how to use a volunteer management system.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of organizing volunteers in 2021 and beyond.
1. Value the Role of Volunteers
You recognize that volunteers are your organization’s backbone, but do your volunteers know that’s true? Here are three ways to communicate how much your volunteers means to your organization:
Ask Volunteers for Input
If you’re beginning a strategic planning process, consider asking your volunteers who serve in various areas of your organization to come to your meetings and participate. These volunteers will bring new perspectives as a result of the different roles they play. Collaboration is key!
We recommend you host annual or semiannual meetings to get feedback from your volunteers on the organization’s activities. You may also want to create a survey to learn about each volunteer’s experiences and gather ideas for the organization. Other ways to get feedback from volunteers include emails, office postings, and articles in your newsletters.
To increase the likelihood of volunteer input in the planning and decision-making process, let volunteers know you welcome and value their feedback. Include this messaging in the orientation materials. If you have staff, think about training them to ask for and report any feedback they receive.
Track Volunteer Hours
Some volunteers will put in more hours than others. While some individuals may not be able to put in as much time as they wish, it’s still important to recognize those who have dedicated more time. For this reason, you should track the hours of each volunteer, which you can easily do with the Volgistics volunteer database system. This software allows you to:
- Keep track of volunteer service histories
- Organize assignments by location, program, or department
- View or print out volunteer lists for individual assignments
- Send an email to volunteers by assignment
- Automatically determine eligibility for service awards
Find Ways to Show Your Appreciation
You’ll also want to come up with ways to show how much you value your volunteers. Sending out a mass thank-you email after an event is a thoughtful gesture, but you should also make an effort to thank each volunteer personally. If you track the hours of your volunteers, recognize them for their actions.
To make your showing of thankfulness more personalized and meaningful, consider other options, like:
- Giving out awards to top-performing volunteers
- Celebrating National Volunteer Week
- Introducing top volunteers to members of staff in other programs
- Offering refreshments after large volunteer events
2. Utilize Superior Recruitment Strategies
Whether you’re a PTO president, nonprofit director, or team leader planning a community service project, you’ll need to recruit volunteers at some point. Rounding up volunteers to assist at your event is a time-intensive but essential step in creating a memorable and successful experience. To be more effective at volunteer recruitment, consider some of the following ways to organize volunteers before an event:
- Don’t wait to start asking: When you find out the date of the event, start asking. Beginning your search early will ensure you have enough time to find the right team.
- Inquire more than once: Ask for help throughout the year. Even if someone can’t assist with your first event, they may be able to help out next time. It’s also smart to send out reminders. You never know when someone’s schedule may free up.
- Start small: Start by asking friends and colleagues who have volunteered at your events before. They can also help you spread the word about the event.
- Talk to people directly: When asking people, try to do it face-to-face if you can. This approach feels more personal — and seeing that you’re passionate about the event will encourage people to help out.
- Be specific: Let them know exactly what they’d be doing. People like to know what’s on the docket, whether that’s selling tickets, serving food, or setting up tables. If they need training beforehand, let them know now so they can see if they have time in their schedule.
- Show enthusiasm: Show your passion for the event so they understand why it’s important. Most people will readily agree to volunteer when they understand the cause and how their efforts will directly impact others.
- Follow up after the event: Follow up with your event’s attendees after it’s over. Here’s when planning for the following year really starts, as attendees may have become especially interested in your cause and want to help the following year’s event be even better.
- Find people already involved with your cause: Search for people who have already participated in events to support similar causes and ask whether they’d like to help out. If you know someone who’s supported sports fundraisers in the past, they may want to supply equipment for your youth basketball tournament.
- Tell current volunteers to ask around: Ask your volunteers whether they have friends or family who’d be interested in joining them. Using your current network of volunteers to boost your ranks takes little effort and is super helpful.
- Make your vision clear: Be clear when communicating the goal of your event. If volunteers can see the overall picture, they’ll better understand how they fit in and how to advance the cause.
3. Make a Plan to Develop Volunteer Skills
In addition to contributing to a cause, many volunteers participate to develop skills. Two key ways to develop volunteer skills are through orientation and training.
If you asked your volunteers about your group’s goals, would they be able to give a clear answer? Volunteers should be aware of the group’s mission, history, and structure so they can raise the profile of your group when asked about the volunteer work they do. Even more importantly, they’ll know how they fit into the group and how they’re contributing.
All volunteers — even board members — should receive an orientation. Orientations can come in many different forms, including:
- Information in volunteer interviews
- Presentations at meetings
- Orientation kits
You can use multiple approaches, and the ones you use depend on how much detail you want to provide, the number of volunteers you have, and how often you must orient them.
To develop skills, volunteers must also receive training, which isn’t the same thing as orientation. Though an orientation provides an overview of the organization’s background and goals, training provides volunteers with the specific information and skills they need to carry out their roles. For instance, a new board member may benefit from reading past minutes or learning how to read financial statements, while new event coordinators will want information on previous events.
Training is also a chance to teach volunteers about safety precautions and relevant policies. As an example, are volunteers allowed to accept gifts from the clients with whom they work? If the media ask your volunteer event coordinator to comment at a public meeting, are they allowed to speak on your organization’s behalf? What does a board member need to know regarding legal responsibilities? These are examples of specific things you must explain to your volunteers when you train them.
The training you provide should be ongoing for as long as the volunteer is part of your organization. This strategy will help the volunteers remain interested in what they do. When designing training for your volunteers, ask yourself these questions:
- What training or information can you provide so your volunteers will remain interested and feel like they’re learning and growing?
- Can they be sent to workshops that will build their skills?
- What other assignments can you offer them so they stay engaged and feel challenged?
- How can volunteers give me feedback about current training methods?
Training is an excellent opportunity to reward volunteers for a job well done and keep them motivated, informed, and engaged.
4. Set Goals and Create Assignments
Before you accept any volunteer applications, you’ll want to define their roles. Think about the kind of help you’ll need — temporary or permanent — to help your organization achieve its goals. Whether you’re recruiting volunteers for a one-off event or requesting long-term volunteer help for the foreseeable future, you must outline what you need from them and what they can expect.
Give every volunteer a clear job title and description, which includes:
- The qualifications needed to perform their role successfully
- The minimum number of hours they should work
- The various duties they’ll perform while volunteering
The job description should tell volunteers what the purpose of the work is and how it’ll help achieve your organization’s goals. Think about what would motivate a volunteer to get involved and what tasks need to be done in your organization. When designing new jobs, combine these two needs. A job description also helps you determine how much risk the job involves and what should be done about it.
Before you write the job description, ensure the job you’ll be asking volunteers to do is something that will benefit your organization and help it achieve its goals. Basically, don’t create a position that relates loosely to the purpose of your organization. People often become involved in volunteer work because they believe in the cause of the group. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure they understand how the particular role fits in with the organization’s overall aims.
To make sure volunteers are making effective contributions, your organization should go through a process known as job design. When designing jobs, your organization should sort all the work it does — or should be doing — into key work areas, then into tasks related to each of the key areas. You can then group these tasks into individual job assignments, some of which can be done by volunteers and others by paid staff.
The assignments you create should always be aimed at helping the organization attain its goals. However, don’t forget to consider the needs of the volunteers, as well. Volunteers have various reasons for taking on a job in an organization. As a result, while you may not be paying them a salary or providing them with benefits, you should still outline why and how this position will reward them.
5. Communicate With Volunteers
Communicating with your volunteers — both throughout their time with you and after their work ends — is one of the most important aspects of managing volunteers. Through the right technology, you can maintain a strong relationship with your volunteers before, during, and after their time with your organization.
Using volunteer management software from Volgistics, your organization can send email and text messages to your volunteers. You’ll be able to communicate easily with your volunteers using the method they prefer, reminding them of existing commitments or notifying them of any schedule changes.
Email and Text Features
Thanks to the volunteer communication system from Volgistics, you’ll no longer have to manage a long list of volunteers’ phone numbers outside of our Volgistics system. Additionally, you won’t have to tediously select certain volunteers with Microsoft Outlook. Our software will pull from existing classifications and use volunteers’ contact information within those groups.
In addition to this integrated functionality, our software also saves messages sent to volunteers and keeps track of their delivery statuses, determining whether a method of contact is valid. Volgistics even lets volunteers select the types of emails and texts they’d like to receive.
If you decide to use VicTouch or VicNet modules, you’ll also be able to send messages to volunteers using VicMail. This feature allows volunteers to receive messages from you when they log in to VicNet or VicTouch. Unlike traditional email, you can track messages in VicMail and see whether your volunteers have seen them.
With the volunteer texting and emailing software from Volgistics, you can message:
- All volunteers: Message all of your volunteers to let them know about important updates related to holidays, events, or large schedule changes.
- One volunteer: You can also message a single volunteer to inform them about updates in the schedule or instructions related to their specific job.
- Volunteers working on a specific assignment or day: You can message all volunteers working on a particular assignment or day and notify them of things like lost items, cancellations, and weather-related issues.
- Volunteers tagged based on particular criteria: You can message volunteers with certain qualifications to let them know of skill-specific tasks or openings.
- Volunteers with an upcoming birthday: Message volunteers with an upcoming birthday to send them birthday wishes.
- Coordinators: Communicate with coordinators to let them know about changes in schedule or any deletions or additions to your pool of volunteers.
Improve Best Practices for Volunteer Organization With Volgistics
If you’d like to make volunteer management quick and easy, there’s no better tool than Volgistics volunteer management software. To see the capabilities of this amazing software, feel free to schedule a free demo. In no time, you’ll have an organized team of volunteers ready to help you reach your organization’s goals.