At the heart of any community organisation which relies on charity for income is a team of willing and able volunteers.
Volunteers have a heart for a good cause.
They have a wide range of skills you can utilise to achieve your mission.
And unpaid supporters generously donate their time expecting nothing in return.
Utilise volunteers properly, and these salts of the earth can form the backbone of any charity. Fail to engage with them appropriately, however, and you could have a set of problems that cost your charity time, money and energy that is rarely available to spare.
If you’re about to engage with a team of volunteers or you don’t feel like you’re getting the best out of your existing support, here’s how to establish and maintain a volunteer program that helps you achieve your mission.
Treat volunteers as paid members of staff
Apart from appearing on the payroll, volunteers must be given the same respect as paid members of staff. There’s no such thing as ‘just’ volunteers or ‘only’ a volunteer. Volunteers are a member of your team and must be treated as such.
Ask all volunteers to sign an official code of conduct as part of their induction so they’re aware of what’s expected of them when they’re representing your charity, and what they can expect in return.
Match tasks with their skillset
Whether your volunteers are supporting you to keep themselves active in retirement, as part of a return to work program or purely to make a difference in their community, there’s no doubt they’ll have a wide and varied range of experience and skills to bring to your table.
Rather than trying to train them to complete tasks that suit you, allocate jobs based on their current skillset and areas they enjoy getting involved in.
While you might have a long list of jobs you need someone to do, either recruit specifically for those, or match tasks accordingly. While volunteers are as much of a part of the team as all your colleagues, if they don’t enjoy the tasks once they get there, or don’t feel like they’re achieving anything, you risk losing engagement altogether which could be detrimental to your overall workflow.
Treat volunteers like a donor
While volunteers may not contribute financially to your cause, they contribute something just as valuable if not more so – their time.
You can never replace time, and if someone’s chosen to help you achieve your mission by creating room in their schedule, their support must be thanked profusely and often, to keep them coming back and giving more.
Your database should have a volunteer application so you can communicate with them appropriately. Regular correspondence is a must for both active and inactive volunteers. Acknowledge special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, send them newsletters and details of your fundraising campaigns, and let them know how their contribution is helping and just how much their valued support is appreciated.
Whether you have 20 or 200 volunteers in your program, a comprehensive volunteer database will help you communicate consistently and effectively to always keep them engaged.
Acknowledge their support publicly
Volunteers don’t always give their time purely to receive thanks but do it anyway.
Events such as International Volunteer Day, end of year Christmas celebrations and regular morning teas are an excellent opportunity to show your gratitude and let volunteers know you can’t go on without them.
You might consider a ‘volunteer of the month’ campaign showcasing individual achievements on social media or in your internal newsletter. You could provide a Certificate of Appreciation at the end of each quarter. Or you can nominate volunteers for community awards often run by local councillors. Even if they don’t win, the acknowledgement will be enough to spur them into action into the future.
Give your time back in return
While your time is likely to be stretched to capacity, volunteers deserve your attention every time they show up to support you. A five-minute chat goes a long way in helping someone feel valued and motivates them to do more.
If your volunteers feel like they’re a nuisance or you don’t have time for them, this won’t help them perform at their best, nor value your wider mission.
Volunteers are pillars of society, and small to medium charities simply can’t make the impact they need in the community without an active and engaged team of volunteers flying the flag.
There are lots of organisations who would welcome the valuable support of your volunteers, so it’s essential you keep them engaged, show your gratitude and make time to thank them for their contribution.
To find out how SupporterHub can help you engage with a team of volunteers to further achieve your mission, contact us today.