3 Tips for Successful Nonprofit Volunteer Management

3 Tips for Successful Nonprofit Volunteer Management

Nonprofit volunteer management teams depend on volunteers as the lifeblood of a nonprofit organization.

A volunteer’s time is a great gift, and smart nonprofit volunteer management teams will do whatever they can to keep their dedicated volunteers around. We often misunderstand what our volunteers want out of their experience. More guidance or support must be given to do help these passionate people do their best work. Doing this will help them derive that all-important satisfaction from a job well done.

Every potential volunteer comes to your organization with a set of skills and talents. It would be a waste not to utilize them! Volunteers perform best when they can do what they know. They will derive more satisfaction from their work when they can succeed or excel at it. Volunteering is a two-way street, where each of you has something to give and something to receive.

These best practices will help you to better recruit volunteers for the jobs you need them to do, and retain them longer by valuing and respecting the time they donate to the cause.

Know exactly what needs to be done before posting a volunteer opportunity.

Nothing is more frustrating as a volunteer than signing up to help a cause, only to end up standing around with nothing to do. Rarely will those volunteers come back again—there’s nothing satisfying about wasting your time.

Before you even begin recruiting volunteers, sit down and write out what needs to be done and how many people are needed to do it. Estimate how many hours each task will take, where it can be done (from home, on-site, at the office, etc.) and who at the organization will oversee the volunteer working on it. Volunteers need to know who they can ask when they have questions about their tasks, or where to report when they’re finished with it.

When you find yourself with more volunteers than work, it’s okay to say no! Diluting an individual volunteers’ work so that there’s more to go around ultimately won’t help your organization (because now there are more bodies to organize and manage).

If you don’t need a volunteer for a particular job right now, ask them if you can contact them about other similar opportunities that might match their needs and skills. Placing them—and not having anything for them to do, is frustrating for them and time consuming for you.

Clearly outline each position’s responsibilities and benchmarks.

We’re often afraid of alienating volunteers if we hold them to certain standards or require a particular time commitment. Volunteers want to know when they’re doing a good job. Anyone with passion for your mission will do their best to meet the requirements of their position, if it’s right for them.

Volunteers may be searching for clear communication and accountability, particularly for skilled jobs that require certain professional backgrounds.

Setting clear expectations, benchmarks and deadlines also produces a tangible record of their hard work.  Volunteers can walk away feeling satisfied in knowing they’ve contributed to your organization. This also allows for a deeper and more effective collaboration among staff and volunteers.

Nonprofit volunteer management teams must match volunteers with positions that speak to their personalities and skill sets.

The easiest way to lose a volunteer is to match them with a job they’re not equipped to do. Anyone that has been in this position knows it feels unsatisfying, and slowly chips away at any confidence.

Get a sense of what they want to do when placing a new volunteer. Find out where their strengths lie, and where they could feel most effective. Many nonprofits use surveys and interviews to get to know their volunteers before placing them.

Be as flexible as you can about placement, and routinely check in to find out if a volunteer’s job is working for them. Volunteers that don’t feel heard or used to the best of their ability often burn out and decide to quit. Perhaps a volunteer who’s struggling just needs to work on something new.

Come back next week for more about how to retain volunteers beyond placement, and ensure a positive relationship long into the future!

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