How to Engage Volunteers in 2019

Hiring staff is one of the largest expenditures for any organization. As a nonprofit, that concern is even more pressing. Depending on the size of your nonprofit, you may be able to hire a few full-time employees and a handful of part-time staff. To truly make a difference, however, nonprofits rely on an army of volunteers.

Finding volunteers is a tough job to begin with. So, when you find someone who wants to help, don’t let them go. It’s been said attracting a customer is five times more expensive than keeping a customer. That principle could be applied to volunteers, too.

When you have someone with a burning desire to pitch in, make sure you stoke that flame. Engaged volunteers have the potential to be key resources, keeping your nonprofit afloat. Here are a few things to think about when keeping that low-to-no cost workforce intact.

Free Range Volunteers

When volunteering starts to feel like a job, interest levels begin to drop and no-shows increase. When giving volunteers something to do, let them do it. Maybe those chairs could be stacked more efficiently, but it’s one less job you have to worry about.

Constant nit-picking or micromanaging is no fun on the job, and even less so when it happens during free time. Maybe they socialize a little too much, take too many breaks, or aren’t very productive. But they believe in what your nonprofit stands for and any little thing they bring to the table should be appreciated.

Maximize Strengths

Your organization has a mission that resonates with people, and they want to help. Anybody can set up chairs for your annual fundraising event, and your volunteers are happy to do it. In this case, it’s an all-hands-on-deck situation. Throughout the year, however, a nonprofit can leverage the variety of skills they have at their disposal.

If you have a professional copywriter, use that talent to craft social media messages, donor emails, and create content for the website. By showing you understand their value to the mission, your volunteers remain engaged with that mission.

Don’t push it though, maybe that IT tech wants to spend their free time clearing overgrown brush at a local playground instead of debugging your website. Nobody wants to feel as though they’re being taken advantage of. If your volunteers are looking for an escape from their job, give it to them.

Good Job Team!

Volunteers are giving freely of their time, so don’t be stingy with the accolades. This could mean a party after a big fundraising event or recognition of a volunteer who just put in their 500th hour for your organization. Your volunteers want to be here, and the occasional affirmation only cements those feelings.

Social media can be a huge help here. LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter are great ways to spread the word about your organization and an easy way to quickly recognize volunteer contributions. Posting pictures from an event or work site is an immediate way to give recognition of a job well done. It can also serve another purpose.

The picture you post of volunteers during a winter coat drive may be shared, liked, or forwarded to friends and family members. That means more people are hearing about your nonprofit and may lead to donations or additional volunteers. And all it took was a few minutes on your phone.

Volunteers believe in what your nonprofit organization is doing for the community and are ready to do whatever they can to help. And you don’t even have to pay them! But you don’t have to make sure they feel appreciated and are a productive member of the team. By following the suggestions above, that’s just what you’ll do.

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