In order to maximize your volunteer program’s effectiveness and provide a positive volunteer experience, you’ll need to devise a concrete management strategy that prioritizes your volunteers’ needs.
Because there are so many moving parts involved in volunteer management, many nonprofits get a little lost along the way (and some don’t even know where to start).
If that sounds like your organization, never fear! In this article, we’ll talk through 5 common volunteer management mistakes that nonprofits make every day, and we’ll show you some surefire ways to correct them.
Here’s an overview of the mistakes we’ll cover:
As a nonprofit, you likely already know the importance of consistent communication. But when it comes to managing volunteers, there’s almost nothing as vital as clear, regular communication.
Think about it: your volunteers rely on your nonprofit leadership to understand their roles and responsibilities within your organization before, during, and following their volunteer time.
Because many nonprofits aren’t managing their time and tasks efficiently, communication falls to the wayside. Poor communication can lead to a number of unfortunate situations, such as:
All of those potential pitfalls can result in decreased volunteer retention and a poor volunteer experience—neither of which reflect well on your organization!
The best way to avoid a communication catastrophe is to develop a plan for how your volunteer program will tackle volunteer communications.
That strategy might include any (or all) of the following components:
Bottom line: If you’re not communicating in a way that’s reaching (and engaging) your audience, you’ll run the risk of leaving your volunteers in the dark on many important fronts. Avoid that by prioritizing clear, consistent communications from the get-go.
Volunteers who aren’t confident in their abilities to impact your nonprofit likely won’t look forward to returning to volunteer a second time, much less long-term.
While most nonprofits want to create a fulfilling volunteer experience, many don’t take the time to ensure their supporters are successful in their volunteer positions or excited about their contributions to the cause.
When nonprofits don’t seek to help their volunteers thrive and make an impact in every task they take on, they won’t be able to develop the sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships that are the foundation of truly successful volunteer programs.
To ensure that volunteers are at the center of your program, assess your current volunteer empowerment strategy.
Here are just a few ways you can start empowering your volunteers today:
Bottom line: To keep volunteers engaged, it’s important that you help them understand that the projects they’re taking on are meaningful and that they are capable of completing the tasks and impacting the community.
More than likely, your nonprofit has a diverse group of supporters. If you combed through your constituent database, you’d likely find individuals with different professional backgrounds, skill sets, and interests.
Unfortunately, many nonprofits aren’t considering that diversity as a potentially game-changing element of their volunteer program!
Instead of tailoring their recruitment process, many nonprofits take a generalized approach to acquiring volunteers. Similarly, many organizations don’t consider how they can align the right volunteers with the right opportunities.
If you don’t make an effort to discover volunteers’ strengths and place them in roles where they can thrive, you might be missing out on a myriad of great benefits, including increased volunteer retention and greater volunteer engagement.
Every volunteer can add unique value to your organization, but only if you take some time to discover what that value might be.
Let’s look at a few examples of how you can align volunteers with the best opportunities for them:
Bottom line: When you make a point to provide opportunities that serve your nonprofit and fit with volunteers’ skills and interests, you’ll see satisfied volunteers who are well-qualified and excited to complete the projects at hand.
We live in a digital society, and nonprofit volunteer programs are no exception. The internet is convenient, accessible, and instant—it’s no surprise that we rely on it for so many aspects of their daily lives!
Most likely, your nonprofit has some form of digital communication plan in place already to connect with all your supporters, including volunteers.
However, if you’re hoping to really engage volunteers online, posting sporadically on Facebook or sending out a generic weekly email just won’t cut it!
When you don’t develop a volunteer-specific digital strategy, you’re setting yourself up to miss out on connecting with a large chunk of your supporters, as well as a wide network of potential volunteers.
To amp up your online strategy and reach volunteers in the digital age, you’ll need to consider your audience as well as what you hope to achieve through your digital strategy.
The internet can help you reach your existing volunteers in a convenient, engaging way, but it can also be a great tool for reaching prospective volunteers as well.
Depending on your goals, you might try any (or all!) of the following tips:
Bottom line: There’s just no way to avoid online engagement as an integral part of any volunteer management strategy. Make the most of your digital presence by effectively utilizing channels such as your website, social media, and email.
Between finding the right volunteers, training them in their roles, and following up afterward, securing a first-time volunteer is hard work, which might be why many nonprofits spend so much of their time focusing on volunteer acquisition.
But let’s think about that: volunteer recruitment is hard work. If that’s the case, why would you put your volunteer program through the trouble of relying on new recruits to fill your volunteer slots rather than retaining past volunteers?
When you look at it this way, it makes sense that volunteer retention should be a major facet of volunteer management. Sadly, many nonprofits let their hardworking volunteers slip away instead of investing in them long-term, which leads to more work on the nonprofit’s part.
Plus, when you don’t keep volunteers around long enough to get to know them and what they can contribute to your organization, you’re missing out on the chance to build relationships that can impact your nonprofit for years to come.
Take a vested interest in your volunteers like you would an employee of your nonprofit. When you show them that you value their support and service, you’ll open the door for a sustainable nonprofit-volunteer relationship.
Many of the tips we’ve discussed can help boost volunteer retention, but here are a few specific ways to prioritize retention in your volunteer program:
Bottom line: By focusing on volunteer retention, you’re emphasizing that each volunteer is an important, unique part of your organization. Show your volunteers that you care about them as individuals and will do what you can to make the volunteer experience a positive one.
Volunteer management can be tricky. By knowing which mistakes to avoid, you can ensure your nonprofit stays ahead of the curve in creating a volunteer program that’s fulfilling and engaging for your volunteers!
Read more about Volunteer Management from TopNonprofits – or my recent post on the topic: