Volunteers are an invaluable part of a nonprofit’s success.
However, the work we expect of them can take their toll in the fast-paced environment of an annual non-profit fundraising event. This can lead to bad experiences for both your volunteers and your donors.
Putting policies and procedures in place to combat burnout could be your greatest defense against losing your best people. We’ve compiled a list of recommended actions you can take to create an administrative framework that will stave off anxiety and support volunteer recruitment and retention.
A Volunteer Handbook
Create a volunteer handbook that includes everything they need to know to navigate the evening quickly and with absolute certainty. Provide an organization chart with clear job descriptions they can easily reference so they’ll know who to find when they need help. The general policies and procedures of your nonprofit should also be included, along with disciplinary actions they need to be aware of regarding their behavior.
Add the event program, a map of the venue, and any special instructions that will help them be more proficient during the event, such as operating instructions for special equipment.
Simplify the Volunteer Registration Process
Implementing an easy-to-use volunteer registration and management process has proven to be an effective tool in recruiting and keeping dedicated volunteers. Good volunteer management software will also simplify processes for your management team. They can provide insights into volunteer behavior; facilitate creative ideas for engagement, and help you build relationships that last long after the event. Look for software programs that are accessible from anywhere through an internet connection.
Policies and Procedures
Policies are designed to create the parameters of your decision-making process. Procedures provide the details on how you will achieve the goals you’ve decided upon. Creating strong policies and procedures for your volunteers will provide you with a strong framework that both you and your volunteer team can be confident with.
Examples of essential policies are:
- Volunteer requirements
- Attendance and dress code expectations
- Placement and service descriptions
- Orientation and training
- Age requirements
- Work expectations and evaluations
- Rules and disciplinary actions (smoking, drug use, harassment, poor performance)
- Recognition programs
- Safety and security
- Conflict of interest rules
- The improper use of confidential or proprietary information
- Reimbursement of expenses
- General guidelines
Procedures should address:
- Record management instructions
- Attendance notification processes if they won’t be able to fulfill their obligations
- Change of placement or service requests
- Disciplinary actions enforced
- Training schedules
- Evaluation procedures
- Lost and found instructions
- Safety and security instructions
- Complaint resolution processes
Correct volunteer placement offers a lot of retention potential. Asking a few questions during planning can tell you where your volunteers will soar, or where they’ll be sunk. And, if they feel like they’ve been successful, there is a larger chance they’ll return to help at a second event.
Find out what their experience and skills are and what they would like to get out of their volunteer experience. Use their answers as a guide to determine where both you and they will get the most benefit from their volunteer experience.
Providing a good training program will ensure your volunteers feel confident in their jobs and excited about utilizing their newly acquired skills at the event. Consider who is the best trainer in your organization and look for someone knowledgeable with the personality to excite volunteers. Keep the training short and to the point, so they can get to the work at hand.
Help Desk for Volunteers
No matter how much prep work you put into your volunteer program questions will inevitably come up during your event. Keep volunteers in the know with a help desk created just for them. This will give them a one-stop place to get the answers they need quickly during crazy times and the security they need to keep their anxiety in check when guests are wanting answers immediately. It will also free up the time your team leaders will spend answering the same questions again and again. Recruit someone from your team who has a general knowledge of your organization and can answer obscure questions with a high level of certainty.
Creating a “volunteer sharing” partnership with another nonprofit focused on a related cause is a great way to recruit new volunteers. For instance, if your nonprofit is focused on the protection of orcas you could approach an organization that works to clean up the salmon runs that empty into Puget Sound. Work with them to combine or swap volunteer groups. Many other great opportunities could come from this approach, including joint events that could double your attendee and volunteer lists.
Retention Outreach Program
Long term volunteers are the goal of many nonprofits. It cuts down on the costs of recruiting and training and gives the organization a respectable reputation among the greater volunteer community. Consider adding incentives that will encourage continued involvement with your group. Maybe anniversary gifts or special recognition or appreciation events that are six months out from the fundraiser that will keep them involved throughout the year. Adding a recruiting incentive that inspires current volunteers to introduce their friends to your volunteer opportunities is another way to keep them engaged throughout the year.