Your nonprofit spends precious time and money on the recruiting, training, deploying, recognizing and supervising each of your nonprofit’s volunteers. Volunteers want to be treated as if they matter —and they do! All too often, nonprofits assume that because volunteers usually care deeply about mission, their love of social good will be an adequate substitute for best practices in training, supervision, recognition, communication and overall engagement. Research indicates that nearly 30 percent of your volunteers will disappear from your organization each year. Frequently, volunteers won't announce their departure or inform you that they are no longer interested in supporting your organization. They are gone, along with their value of approximately $25.00 per hour, with no opportunity for you to retain them.
Charities know that when good, smart and reliable volunteers leave, mission delivery is affected. So, despite our best efforts, why do we continue to lose volunteers?
Volunteers lose interest in nonprofits for the following reasons:
- Lack of training. Volunteers are there to help, but are unsure of how best to do so.
- Under-utilization of skill sets. Are you making the most of volunteers’ work and life experiences?
- Lack of schedule and task coordination, which leaves volunteers feeling that their time is not valued.
- Surprisingly, and cited quite often, volunteers also report that they often have no knowledge of, or access to, an appropriate nonprofit manager to whom their complaints could be directed.
Nonprofits need to ensure that volunteers work in a productive, meaningful, fulfilling and safe work environment. Creating an environment that values and appreciates volunteers is a top priority, and should never be viewed as optional.
A great volunteer manager provides as much information and transparency as possible about the organization’s strategies and mission objectives. Volunteer job expectations, scheduling, utilization and goal achievement — should all be made available in an easy to access, reliable way. The best nonprofits clearly set achievable standards for volunteer performance success and help to meet those standards by providing consistent, accessible support and guidance.
MissionBox also never wants to forget to inspire and excite our volunteers! Volunteers serve because they care about your mission; they stay because they feel like an integral part of your positive impact. And the one who answers the phone is as important to your work as the one who delivers meals to seniors or who provides pro bono legal services. They all are giving when they have no obligation to give. And nonprofits are glad to be the recipients of their time and skills. With that exchange comes the nonprofit leadership responsibility to offer a fulfilling, predictable and meaningful volunteer experience.
Thank yous, success stories and carefully fostered communication sharing can make all the difference in engaging every volunteer’s head and heart. Creating volunteer engagement is all the buzz in 2018 in terms of effective retention strategies. Investing time and resources in training, communication, and most of all, connection reduces that frustrating volunteer exodus.
What content should you include in your Volunteer Group?
- Provide all Volunteer basic forms, policies, procedures and required paperwork in ONE easy to access place. Include:
- Board approved volunteer and/or employee policies and procedures (many nonprofits combine these handbooks). Ask for a check-off when your volunteer reviews policies and send them a notice when there is an update. NEVER assume because you sent a new Handbook of Policies and Procedures that it was opened and read. Likely, it was not.
Example: Screenshot Mini Video
- Links to time and scheduling sheets. It’s important to track time logged by volunteers because it can be used to offset matching grant requirements and for volunteer recognition awards
- Criminal background checks in the form of downloadable forms
- A place to store and easily update and/or add required resumes, certifications of training
- Leave time requests
- Applications for available employment positions. Important to consider because volunteers are often your next great hire!
- Expense reimbursement forms
You get the idea!
2. Feedback Centers/Message Boards. Provide a public, semi-public or private forum for your volunteer “shout outs” and other forms of instant volunteer recognition — focusing on the big and small thank-yous that make for a highly motivated volunteer team.
3. Private channels to directly contact management with concerns, questions or complaints. FYI: The lack of this is among volunteers’ number one complaints and the reason that so many volunteers leave without notice.
4. Onboarding or other training videos and materials. This can cut costs and time in onboarding new volunteers, so that use the time you do have to make that all-important, personal, face-to-face connection with your new volunteer. Also, missed training sessions and other how-to guides or materials are always accessible to watch, read or review one more time. This is important because volunteers are already giving you their time. Home access to video and other training can be a real convenience to busy volunteers.
5. Document sharing. Shared documents for collaborative planning, threaded discussions and volunteer projects, such as galas and other coordinated events
6. Short surveys, Q&As and flash polls. Particularly revealing with volunteers, as they don’t usually spend their days with you and you may miss opportunities for watercooler chat about volunteer impressions or ideas.
7. Individual, departmental or organization-wide announcements.
8. Invitations/event scheduling.
9. Impact reports/annual reports
10. Photos and videos from staff events, birth announcements, weddings, special moments
11. Inspiring stories of mission success
12. Departures and new employee introductions
13. Introductions to board members and other key constituents. Remember that happy volunteers are also likely to become donors.
14. Special requests for volunteer skills, time or contributions — either in-kind or monetary donations
15. Ongoing document management. Your Engagement Community provides unlimited and keyword-searchable access to all documents stored, archived and based upon users’ level of access. We all know that important documents can end up stored in the odd file, on someone’s desktop or attached to an email (among thousands of emails). This is enhanced file sharing and storage with no extra expense for your organization.
16. Social sharing made simple. Your Engagement Community comes social media-ready for easy sharing of good news, great photos and other information you want to share with constituents.