It’s not easy convincing people to work for free, especially getting them to do it regularly.
However, nonprofits need volunteers like a car needs gasoline.
Since nonprofits sell ideas and causes rather than products, most organizations aren’t swimming in loads of cash to throw at huge pools of workers, so passionate volunteers are a key component to success.
Growing and maintaining your pool of volunteers to manage will ensure a never ending supply of help for reaching your organization’s goals.
Here are five ways to grow and maintain your volunteer network.
1. Make your volunteers feel important
No one likes being another number or body in a group of many. Volunteers are no different. Making your volunteers feel important not only attracts more of them to your cause but keeps them around longer.
This can easily be accomplished by assigning titles, giving out special responsibilities, and finding out what your volunteer’s strengths are when giving those responsibilities. For instance, a volunteer may have skills regarding arts and other creative works, so putting them in charge of creating signs, banners, and other displays for your nonprofit appeals to their interests and demonstrates the value you place on their presence. Luckily volunteer management software also helps in this regard by providing notes sections for all volunteers tracked in lists.
Volunteers who feel irreplaceable are more likely to stick around than ones that can be supplanted by any other worker. The longer a volunteer sticks around, the more likely it becomes that they will introduce others to your organization, which feeds your volunteer network.
2. Give your volunteers a sense of belonging
Most people don’t enjoy being an outsider when others are being included in something important and fun. When welcoming new volunteers to your organization it is important to make them feel a part of the group.
This means befriending your volunteers and showing you care that they show up to help your organization. When volunteers show up to work for your nonprofit, ask them how their days have been, invite them to activities outside of volunteer work with the rest of the team, and for the love of all that is holy, REMEMBER THEIR NAMES.
As Value Walk puts it:
When you use someone’s name, it shows you see that person as an individual. When you remember it, it shows your interest in and respect for that individual. In business, knowing someone’s name can make a difference in how that person feels about you and your brand.
Another way to give your volunteers a sense of belonging is by organizing special team building events and activities. Using your volunteer lists, you can organize monthly events that the team will enjoy.
Send out surveys for different activities to find out what your group is most excited about, take this polling into account, then build the details of when and where the activities will take place. It is important to take your team’s opinion on the matter into account so that the event will cater to the interests of your volunteers.
Different relationship building activities that you can invite your volunteers to include:
- Movie nights
- Happy hours
- Volunteer team games (kickball, baseball, etc.)
- Karaoke nights
- Board game nights
- Trampoline parks
- Laser tag
All of these activities give your volunteers a sense of community and belonging which motivates them to continue to be engaged and interested in your organization.
3. Record the contact information of all volunteers
When you hold any sort of volunteer activities, you should ALWAYS record the information of every new volunteer that shows up. This includes their names, phone numbers, email addresses, and even their physical addresses.
Encouraging volunteers to give you their information doesn’t have to be a difficult task either. Incentivizing sign-ups through raffles and prizes makes information gathering easy, so long as volunteers feel as though giving up their information is worth the effort.
Having this information is crucial to making sure your volunteers know about every event coming up as well as keeping your organization fresh in their minds.
It is also important to keep track of this information, since pen and paper can be an unreliable and cluttered system to managing volunteers. Be sure to look into free or paid options for volunteer management software to keep track of who volunteers for your organization.
4. Provide perks to your volunteers
South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the most popular tech, arts, and music festivals in the country, has many volunteers that work the event and in return offers them many different perks. These perks include passes to music events, free access to showings, panels, and sessions, as well as passes to after-parties and barbecues.
These perks are meant to encourage volunteers to work hard, entice volunteers to return to the next event, and attract new volunteers to put in some hard work. Their perk system goes by tiers, with better rewards to those who work longer hours.
When enticing former and new volunteers to show up, structure the rewards to reflect the time and effort put into an event or cause. Some reward ideas include:
- Gift cards to various restaurants or stores
- Sporting event tickets
- Free lunches
- Raffle drawings (number of tickets based on hours worked)
- Organization swag
These incentives, perks, and rewards don’t have to be just for volunteer hours but also for how many friends they encourage to bring along to help. This keeps old volunteers coming back while adding new potential regulars to your membership list.
5. Volunteer recognition events
Similar to the importance of giving volunteers a sense of belonging, recognizing superior volunteer efforts also encourages further participation.
Annual or semi-annual awards ceremonies are perfect for recognizing volunteers who go above and beyond to work for a cause, bring more people into an organization, and spread awareness of your cause and nonprofit.
These recognition events also provide opportunities for further volunteer team bonding outside of the regular hustle and bustle. So eat, drink, and congratulate each other on your hard work.
Were there any tips for maintaining volunteers you feel we missed for this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for Membership Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Membership Management software solutions.