It can be difficult for the individuals in charge of nonprofit organizations to convince volunteers to stay on for more than a few shifts. These volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofits, as they allow work to get done with little to no compensation and engage the nearby community in the organization’s activities. The cycle of paid workers spending hours trying to find volunteers, only to see those volunteers leave a few days later, is all too common. In order for your nonprofit organization to get the most out of these people, you’re going to need to find their interests in relation to the organization’s mission, and how those can be used to keep them around. Here are five ideas to get you on the right track.
1. Discover Motivations
The directors of many nonprofit organizations do not see that their volunteers initially get involved because of a specific motivation aside from general goodwill toward the community. They might be looking to make some new friends with similar interests, or are trying to find a new perspective on life. Regardless of what’s driving them, if you assign these individuals to mundane tasks that they perform alone, they are not likely to gain much passion. To discover these motives, consider just asking right when you get in touch with them. Give volunteers a questionnaire with the freedom to write whatever they want in response. If someone is trying to gain new skills, offer to provide advice. People who feel like they are getting something in return for their work are more likely to return.
2. Articulate Your Expectations
Many nonprofit volunteers get turned off from an organization when they are asked to perform a task that they weren’t expecting. To this end, take some time at the moment you bring new people onboard to explain what they will be doing on a daily basis. An effective way to do this is by distributing manuals with pertinent information, such as
- Number of hours expected of each volunteer.
- Contact information in the event of illness.
- The commitment of the organization to improve the lives of its volunteers and the surrounding community.
- Basic rules and procedures for things such as appropriate equipment handling and personal calls.
Whenever you see that your volunteers are doing great work, be sure to let them know. Additionally, if something requires improvement, make suggestions in a positive way.
3. Volunteering Should Not Be a Burden
Remember that nearly all of the people who turn out to volunteer for your nonprofit organization have time obligations for other things. Keep this in mind when you come up with their schedules for the week. Someone who is available on Monday one week may be busy on the same day the following week. Ask each volunteer for a commitment of hours in a given time period, but be sure that you are flexible, as you are still demanding a lot from these people.
4. Keep Fun in Mind
While you don’t need to shower every volunteer with gifts every time they show up, recognize that some of the jobs you ask them to perform are more entertaining and satisfying than others. These “fun” activities should be in keeping with each person’s experience level, however.
5. Show Appreciation
Regardless of the field you have chosen for your nonprofit organization, your volunteers need to know that what they are doing is making a difference. Doing the following can make sure that they return:
- Express gratitude for good work.
- Establish appreciation luncheons or other group activities.
- Invite your top volunteers to work events such as holiday parties, at which you can present awards for outstanding service.
Keep the above principles in mind when you bring in volunteers to your nonprofit, and they and the community will be grateful for your leadership and dedication.
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