By Trish McGuire
Volunteers are so much more than unpaid workers. They are advocates spreading the word, donors bringing in funds, marketing agents advertising events and the foundation supporting the organization’s long-term goals. All non-profits should have a designated staff member overseeing the recruitment, development and retention of volunteers.
Building a strong volunteer team will increase the growth and success of any cause based organization. Here are five impactful and easily implemented practices which will boost your volunteer department outcomes.
- Provide resources and training to your Manager of Volunteer Engagement. Often overlooked, the volunteer department requires an investment of time and money. In order to build the department and increase outcomes, philanthropy and community involvement, it takes a bit of funding. Just as funds are allocated towards running an education program, training staff or buying supplies for a fundraiser, the volunteer department needs a budget and professional development. (See below for a list of resources.)
- Conduct a needs assessment. Pave the way for your Manager of Volunteers to speak with stakeholders, board members and staff to identify opportunities in which volunteers will make the most impact. Stomp on the misconception that volunteers take jobs away from staff, and replace that way of thinking with: “What work can be best done by a volunteer?” “How will the cause we serve benefit from having a volunteer involved?” “What opportunities do we currently have that will support our staff, stakeholders and clients?”
- Ensure that a job description is written and updated annually for each volunteer position. Volunteers need to know what is expected of them, how they can best help the organization and what skills are needed to be successful in the position. Providing this in writing solidifies expectations and guides outcomes. Allocate time for the staff to work on this together. It takes less time than you might think and the results are well worth it. (This process also reduces risk and protects your organization.)
- Have a well-written Welcome Packet for volunteers. Emphasize your mission statement and how the involvement of volunteers advances that goal. Include an overview of your organization, safety guidelines, the goals of the volunteer program, staff contact information, general expectations of volunteers, and of course the mission.
- Celebrate, Thank and Report. Most organizations remember to thank their volunteers and celebrate the successes along the way. However, make sure upper management is part of that process- face to face with sincerity. The next step is to report back to the board, staff and other stakeholders just how the volunteer program impacted the outcomes of the event or programs in which they are involved. Allocate time for your Volunteer Manager to gather statements from the volunteers and clients on the benefits of the volunteer program. In addition, record the results of their involvement (i.e. 30 children attended school with the supplies needed for a successful year) Outcome-based statistics are measurable results that show all stakeholders the value and benefit of your support team.
The value of volunteers is deep-rooted and encompasses the nonprofit in totality. With proper preparation, training and funding your volunteer team can positively affect every aspect of the organization.
- VolunteerPro – www.volpro.net
- VolunteerMatch – www.volunteermatch.org
- Idealist – www.idealist.org
- Corporation for National & Community Service – www.nationalservice.gov/
Trish McGuire is a lifelong volunteer with over 20 years of volunteer and corporate employee management. She recently became the volunteer & outreach coordinator for Raritan Headwaters in Bedminster, New Jersey. She holds her Certification of Volunteer Management through the Council for Certification of Volunteer Administration (CCVA).
Trish loves connecting people to their cause and helping those causes succeed.