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Volunteers play a critical role in event success and regular programming for nonprofits. Developing a volunteer management process can help you determine how others could potentially support your organization and enable you to make a bigger impact on your community.
Once your team has the capacity to manage volunteers, you’ll first need to map out the different ways you want to incorporate volunteer efforts into your short and long term goals. Your nonprofit may have a diverse variety of jobs and projects to promote to various audiences. After you identify the need, set volunteer policies to ensure you have a unified, organized plan as you begin to search and correspond with potential volunteers and orient them to your nonprofit.
Read on to learn the first steps making your volunteering vision a reality.
You may have already spent a lot of time and energy in this area, but now you should take the next step. Meet with your staff to brainstorm all the areas volunteers could work with your nonprofit. Volunteers could support one main need (e.g., a big upcoming fundraiser), or you may have numerous support roles volunteers could step into to strengthen your programming. Remember that there are a diverse group of people who want to get involved, so discuss the different opportunities that you could offer to appeal to a variety of strengths. Some folks will have interest in donating a day of service, and others may want to find a weekly volunteering opportunity. Some people only have evenings free, while others have availability on the weekend. Over time you can develop a comprehensive list of all the volunteer opportunities imaginable, but for now rank your most important need so you can focus on the initial push.
This may seem like a daunting task if you start from scratch, but it will ensure you have a plan of action as soon as you start communications with potential volunteers. If you establish a clear organizational structure between volunteers and staff from the start, everyone will have clear expectations about the varying roles.
- Illustrate staff roles and responsibilities working with volunteers on a shared flowchart. A visual representation will help staff conceptualize how roles overlap and stretch through time. It will provide an action plan so you can give timely responses to interested volunteers.
- Determine the main point of contact for different volunteer projects. Volunteers need to depend on a staff member for direction and questions.
- Decide on a clear way to update all staff on volunteer progress. Keep everyone in the loop as you expand.
- Although volunteers are already dedicated to your cause, they may have limited knowledge of your nonprofit’s culture and workstyle. Create a document that outlines details about absence policies, dress code and disciplinary actions. Be transparent with expectations from the start, while you introduce them to their individual responsibilities. Think of this as your volunteering syllabi.
- Alongside the policies, anticipate other ways you will introduce volunteers to their team members. Impact reports about your recent projects would provide good insight. Pictures and short explanations of staff roles will further familiarize volunteers with their supervisors and fellow collaborators.
As you create your volunteer position descriptions, remember to use friendly language and write clearly and concisely what the position entails. You will have just a moment to draw someone to your posting or catch their attention. Think about which population will have the availability and skillset you require, and creatively look for ways to reach them!
Can you post an ad on an online volunteer site?
- See if you can find a local volunteer hub. For example, in Lincoln and Lancaster county, Volunteer Partners connects volunteers with local opportunities to help their community.
- Check out VolunteerMatch and Idealist as great resources for sharing nonprofit volunteering opportunities across the nation.
Do you know any professors at a nearby university?
- Check out the course listing along with student organizations to see who cares about your cause and could gain valuable experience donating their time to your nonprofit.
- Some professors require their students to put in volunteer hours every semester, so try to get in touch before the semester starts.
Have you started conversations with neighboring community centers, schools, senior centers, libraries, other nonprofits or businesses with a philanthropic focus?
- Make a list of places with a lot of activity, and post your volunteer opportunities on a window, wall or bulletin board.
- Be open with other nonprofits about your needs to pass on to people they connect with as well.
- Many businesses coordinate volunteer opportunities with their employees, so they could organize a team outing to help your nonprofit.
When you form partnerships with other individuals and groups, you will find more efficient ways to reach your audience. Check back for the next article on volunteer management that outlines steps for improving communication, orienting volunteers and forming strong and trusting relationships.
Want to manage your volunteers online? Firespring offers websites that let volunteers apply directly on your site, sign up for shifts and more. Create calendars that illustrate upcoming events, volunteer trainings and orientations as well. Start your free trial at firespring.org/trial or learn more about how our customized websites can help you make an even bigger difference by calling 877.447.8941 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.