Most nonprofit organizations offer volunteer opportunities to support their mission. Volunteers commit their time and effort to help with important tasks. Since they are not in it for the money, managing their expectations can become daunting. But what exactly can you offer them in return for their services? The answer to that question can help you engage them better and retain their interest in your cause.
Saud works as a volunteer for a charity offering humanitarian services in Egypt. He is a college student and he wants to utilize his summer break to support the charity’s program of offering food rations to Sudanese refugees camped in Hadayek El Maadi near Cairo. He is one of 200 volunteers supporting the charity in logistics including packing of food rations, distribution, and delivery to beneficiaries. He Tweets about his efforts urging others to join him. He uses other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok to showcase his entire journey of providing aid. His efforts are directly leading to more awareness about the charity he supports. Imagine if all 200 volunteers did the same.
Yes, you got the idea! Volunteers are more than just your support team. They are your brand ambassadors helping to uplift your mission in many ways.
That brings us to the most important point. Urge your volunteers to share their stories. Ask them to write about their experiences. This will generate more awareness about your cause and help your brand get more attention
A lot of nonprofits engage volunteers without paying much attention to how they would utilize their services. Sometimes volunteers end up doing the most mundane chore; generating ideas and making PowerPoint presentations. Sometimes they are asked to develop new marketing strategies or new products. It’s important to understand that volunteers will only be with you for a brief period, hence they have little motivation to invest in long-term planning. They would rather perform tasks that can be executed within their period of service. So, develop a clear list of objectives you would like to achieve with the help of your volunteers. Don’t keep things open-ended.
It's pertinent to keep volunteers busy. A bored volunteer can damage your reputation or take responsibilities better left in the hands of paid employees. Create a document scheduling all their activities and share it with them before the commencement of the volunteer program. Everything should be clearly communicated during the orientation.
Volunteers are usually not familiar with your work environment and culture. They might not understand your core vision or values which can guide them to present themselves according to your wishes. To help steer their attitude and behavior in the right direction, it’s important to communicate your expectations. For example, some organizations have implemented strict control on paper usage. Others have stringent safety protocols. These rules should be clearly communicated to all volunteers. Sometimes volunteers may be asked to don a certain item of clothing to conform with local customs. A document highlighting all the dos and don’ts should be shared with all volunteers.
Volunteers you engage will sometimes be involved in field missions where you will likely have little control over how they will be representing your nonprofit. Hence, you must give them ample time to learn all about your organization and become familiar with your internal culture to enable them to best represent your core values.
So far, we have explained what you want out of the volunteer program. To create a conducive work environment for volunteers, ask yourself what THEY want. Following are some of the primary reasons why people want to dedicate their time and services voluntarily:
Understanding what volunteers want will help you manage their expectations and keep them motivated.
Volunteers should know whom to communicate with when they face an issue. A focal person should be appointed to help guide volunteers and listen to their grievances. S/he should have a list of all volunteers with complete contact details.
Important: the focal person’s job should only entail providing guidance, not supervision.
How well you communicate with your volunteers will decide how motivated and engaged they are. Regular communication should be encouraged. Creating a Facebook group or Slack channel is useful to keep your volunteers on one page. Use the online medium to communicate important aspects of the volunteer program and highlight the way forward. You should also make all volunteers part of your email list so that they feel connected to your cause long after their time of service.
Many volunteers will become ‘loyalists’ and will continue to vouch for your cause. So, keep providing them with marketing materials they can share with others. This will guarantee their engagement for a long time.
Your communication strategy should also entail creating a feedback mechanism to help volunteers express their views and provide their assessment of the program.
Sometimes your nonprofit’s mission hinges on how well you engage volunteers especially when volunteers constitute a large part of your workforce. Keeping them engaged and motivated should be a high priority because their help not only supports your core programs but they also help drive your brand image.
Check out our most popular blogs and resources.