We know that volunteers are crucial to many organizations and that they help maximize the limited financial resources that many nonprofits and ministries have. Last week, our focus was on the reasons people volunteers – their motivations. But, once you attract and recruit volunteers, the organization needs a strategy to keep them.
Begin by determining what you need volunteers to do. Do you need them for a short-term project or is the work of your organization reliant on volunteers to fulfill its mission—do you need them on a continuous on-going basis?
A well-planned volunteer program aligns opportunities for service with the mission of the organization.
Align each and every opportunity for service with the mission and purpose of the organization. If the connection is not obvious, spell it out for your potential volunteers and remind them frequently once they are there. Most volunteers will serve in any capacity, if they understand that the service they are providing is vital to the mission of the organization. However, if they feel as though the task they are being assigned is just a menial or busy work task, they are not going to be motivated to continue. Volunteers are not just people to do the work that no one else wants to do.
Now that you have determined what you want volunteers to do, it is time to put it in writing. Volunteers need job descriptions in the same way that paid staff need them. Job descriptions help people to understand what is expected of them. The following should be included in volunteer staff job descriptions:
- Purpose – Tie the purpose of the position to the mission of the organization
- Responsibilities – What does the volunteer do when they are serving?
- Time Commitment – How much time are you expecting of a volunteer in this role?
- Qualifications – Does this position require any special qualifications? (Education, experience, etc)
- Training/Support Provided – What training will you provide? Please don’t “throw your volunteers into service” with no training or support. (This is a good way to ensure they don’t stick around.)
- Volunteer Supervisor & contact information
This may seem like a lot of work for “just” a volunteer. And, yes, it initially is. However, think of this work beyond the single volunteer. Think of this as building an infrastructure to support all future volunteers, for without it, you may always struggle to recruit and retain volunteers.
Then, as your organization brings in volunteers, it is time to begin thinking about how you will retain them. Part of the retention process goes back to understanding an individual’s motivation for volunteering. The second part is how well the organization appreciates its volunteers.
Volunteers want and need to know that their work is making an impact in the organization.
Remember, that your organization is competing against everything else a volunteer has going on in his or her life and everything else that they could be doing instead of serving. For this reason, it is important to let your volunteers know that you care about them and appreciate them. This can be done formally or informally.
Your volunteer recognition program may depend on several factors: how long someone volunteers – are they serving at a one-day/year event or do they serve throughout the year; the resources your organization has; and the reasons that your volunteers serve. You may find that you want to implement a variety of strategies to see which one your volunteers like best. For instance, you may plan an annual appreciation dinner but find that only a handful of volunteers show up. This tells you that your volunteers are really not interested in attending a dinner – so now it is up to you to find something that they will connect with.
Interested in starting a volunteer program? Contact us, we can help you put all of the pieces together for a successful program that benefits both the organization and the volunteers.