Written by Fran Miele, Customer Success Manager
Volunteers are the life-blood of the charity sector. They help us deliver our services, keep things going and support the communities we serve. Without them, many organisations simply wouldn’t be able to keep their doors open.
And if volunteers are the unsung heroes of our sector, then even more heroic and unsung are the volunteer managers who coordinate their shifts, manage timetables and ensure volunteers are trained and equipped to do their roles.
Many volunteer managers will tell you that one of the toughest and most time-consuming parts of their role is attracting and retaining volunteers.
Finding volunteers to support vital roles is one challenge but the key to great volunteer management is empowering volunteers and giving them the tools to do their roles well. This creates successful and passionate communities who will spread your message far and wide.
Here are our four top tips for how to attract and retain volunteers.
Volunteers can do anything from painting a room in one of your services, to redesigning your website, to posting about your campaigns on social media.
When thinking about how to attract volunteers it’s important to think outside the box and consider what skills can really help your strategy to develop and grow, as well as how they can support you where you need it most.
Make sure you post about the role everywhere you can, from platforms like SAM here at Social Good Connect to your own social media – you never know where you might be able to pick up the perfect volunteer. On top of this, you need to make sure that you shout from the rooftops about the great work your volunteers have done for you.
A volunteer who knows their support is appreciated will come back to your cause and talk about your non-profit to people they know! Social media posts, PR, thank you letters, or postcards are great ways to show people the meaningful impact their time has on your organisation.
You want your volunteers to feel fulfilled and have a positive experience so they continue to talk about the work you do – it’s a great opportunity to create real advocates.
If your organisation offers opportunities for people to get stuck into volunteering as a team, make sure you shout about this on your website, across social media, and anywhere else you can think of! Opportunities like this are popular with businesses who offer employer-supported volunteering, but they can be pretty hard to come by.
Treat this role as you would a paid one and ensure the correct systems are in place to support your new recruit before even posting an advert.
Once you have posted an advert and are receiving applications, ensure that you are responding to candidates promptly, even if it is just to acknowledge that their application has been received and more information will follow soon after. In a world of instant communication, no one likes to be kept waiting weeks for a response. In fact, this could give the impression of a lack of organisation and put potential volunteers off the idea of working with your charity at all.
Once you have successfully recruited a new volunteer, make sure they have the correct training and support as they start their new role.
Introduce them to the team, give them an induction to the company, and generally make sure they feel welcomed into the organisation. Currently, that may look like a welcome video call introducing them to key contacts and ensuring they know who to contact if they need support.
Making sure new volunteers feel included and supported from the start will help you retain staff and make it easier to attract new volunteers by word-of-mouth recommendations. It pays to have a good reputation.
With more and more people working flexibly in a post-covid world it’s important to consider how we can empower people to volunteer in a flexible way too. Remember – not all roles require a structured in-person time commitment!
Having agreed goals and outputs set to a general time scale can allow people to do the work whenever suits them best, whether that is on their lunchbreak at work, or sitting on the sofa while binging Stranger Things in the evening.
Volunteering has changed hugely over the past couple of years. Even if your organisation relies on volunteers to carry out most of your day-to-day work there is still space to think about the bigger picture of using volunteer support. How can you maximise support from people who want to help out even if they only have ten minutes?
Micro-volunteering is a great way to attract volunteers and educate them about the work you do. Ask someone to post about you and your work on their LinkedIn profile once a month or put up a poster in their work common area or favourite coffee shop. Or why not tap into the expertise of a skilled volunteer and ask their advice on a challenge you’re facing during a 20-minute brainstorming session?
Appreciate each and every small thing that your volunteers are able to do for you – even 20-minutes during the week can make a bigger impact that you might think!
Think about tapping into other networks which you may not have access to yourself and communicating the impact that your volunteer’s support has helped your organisation to make. You’re more likely to keep them on board when they learn how amazing your mission is!
Volunteers are motivated to come and support you for a wide variety of reasons. Maybe they have a personal connection with your cause, maybe they’ve been given time by their employer to do so and want to use it give back to their local community, or maybe they simply want to build up their CV.
Whatever their motivation for joining, the key to keeping them happy and involved is communication, communication, communication.
To learn more about how Social Good Connect can help you recruit and retain employee volunteers, chat to Fran, our Customer Success Manager. Or to join the platform and start finding volunteers right away, sign up now!
Caroline has made it her life’s work to help people make more meaningful decisions to support their communities and she’s learned some golden nuggets along the way!
So, join Caroline each week for her ‘Thursday Thoughts’ on all things people, planet, philanthropy or purpose all served with sprinkle of fun (but unfortunately no prosecco) to inspire you.