Effective non-profit volunteer strategies don’t begin and end on event night.
A twelve-month engagement strategy reflects a nonprofit’s mission, values, and goals. And, over time, your strategy will help refine the processes you need to create a more rewarding experience for everyone who benefits from the knowledge and skills of your volunteers.
Instead of viewing your volunteer team as just a piece of a larger event plan, we suggest looking at a twelve-month engagement strategy that focuses solely on your volunteers. We’ve compiled a list of areas we feel are important to include.
Develop a volunteer program
Decide what you would like to include in your volunteer program. What is most important to the organization? Which needs are required, and which are optional? How much support is needed and how will you communicate? All these questions and more should be asked as you begin to think about the framework of your volunteer program and the positions you’ll need to fill.
Write volunteer positions
Now that you know what volunteer positions are needed, it’s time to write the job descriptions. Be as detailed as you can so you know exactly what is required when you start the hunt for the perfect match.
When communicating with volunteers, create messaging that speaks to their motivations for helping your nonprofit. Remind them of the benefits of being part of your community and provide evidence that proves their participation is crucial to the success of your mission. Deliver the messaging through multiple channels to have the largest impact. Perhaps it’s text messaging or a social network for the younger volunteers combined with an email drop to reach a broader audience.
Designate and introduce leaders
Picking the right leaders for your volunteer teams plays an essential part in the experience. Consider the types of personalities required to make those positions run smoothly, both in skills and personality, then look for the people on your team who will best fit those roles.
People succeed most often when their jobs match their passions. This is the perfect recipe for a winning volunteer strategy. When sending out information to volunteers include a question or two requesting information about which volunteer positions interest them most and you’ll be able to better place them where they are sure to excel.
A good amount of consideration should go into how you divide up the workload. Think about the amount of time the job will take, it’s importance to the event, it’s stress level, and where volunteers with specific skills will have the largest impact.
Training is key to the volunteers and the attendee’s experience. Without good, confident help at check-in and check-out the lines will be long, mistakes in the data collection will be made, and your guests’ will leave with a poor impression of your organization.
Good evaluation and record keeping should be a part of every aspect of your event’s results. Assess your volunteer team with an eye on retaining the best people, look for clues on how you can make their job easier next year and where their personalities would fit best.
Gratitude is the backbone of all fundraising activities, including the people who put their time and energy into supporting your mission. Make your thank you letters as personal as possible, with a mention of the specific job they performed, the benefit your nonprofit received from their help, and any comments their team lead made about their participation.
When you have completed your post-event reports it’s a good idea to package them into an easy to read email and send it out to all the volunteers. Nothing brings home how much of an impact they’ve made than the actual numbers. Use colorful graphs to give it a little pizzazz.
Stay in touch with your volunteers at regular intervals throughout the year. Follow up the event with the results and thank you letters. Touch base at the six-month mark by giving them an update on the work funded by the event’s donations and get them excited about what’s coming at the next event during the planning stage.
An additional benefit of creating an annual volunteer strategy is providing material for your current volunteers to go after more volunteers through their networks. Encourage them to become “brand ambassadors” for your organization. They can join your social networks and share the stories and successes of your nonprofit with their friends and family.
As you begin to enact your strategy you may find areas where adjustments are required. Pay attention to areas where you can further support volunteers. Flexibility in the beginning of planning will help everyone stay on the same page later when it counts.
The point of a twelve-month volunteer strategy is to employ a personal approach to managing and communicating with your volunteer team, which in turn will encourage higher rates of retention and recruitment. Making them a central focus in your planning will gain your nonprofit a rock-solid reputation as an organization that supports and cares about their volunteers as much as their donors.