Volunteers coming back to sign up for an event is an exciting moment for nonprofits, but getting them to repeatedly come back to help is a serious achievement. People are reluctant to donate their time for free, so being able to recruit and keep volunteers can be a difficult task. However, there are a few precautions and actions nonprofits can take to ensure their volunteers have the best experience when they participate and are willing to return.
Given that people are generally hesitant to donate their time, when an organization does manage to land volunteers, it needs to be prepared. In other words, when people arrive to work for their hour, or however long they’ve dedicated, make sure you have the job supplies ready and waiting. If a person shows up to a site and then has to stand around while the supplies are gathered, they’re bound to become bored and view the experience as a waste of time, which makes it unlikely they will return in the future. Another key to being prepared is maintaining good volunteer management. Know how many people you need for each event so that people don’t show up just to be told there is nothing for them to do.
Give clear instructions
Organizations need to make sure they have a team leader or supervisor take the time at the beginning of an event to clearly convey the job activities to the volunteers. This will also give people the opportunity to ask questions if they are confused about anything. Overall, this will make people more productive because they have a clear goal in mind, and volunteers will feel useful instead of standing around unsure of themselves.
Another benefit of giving instructions is there will be fewer mistakes, which ultimately makes the job go faster and creates less of a chance for someone to be chastised for doing something incorrectly. Being told you’re doing a task wrong can be a little embarrassing and frustrating, two emotions nonprofits want their volunteers to avoid.
Watch the clock
If someone gives you an hour of their time, don’t try to take two. If a person gets roped into staying way later than they had originally planned, chances are they are not going to be happy about it. In fact, PTO Today suggested informing volunteers when their time is up. This way they won’t feel like you’re trying to take advantage of them, and if they stay later it is because they chose to.
Create leadership opportunities
Giving people more responsibility will make them feel important and like they are a valuable member of the organization. This feeling will keep them coming back to help out time and time again. Creating leadership roles is also a great way to gain more volunteers. When people become more involved in a cause, they want their friends and family to participate in the organization as well. People in leadership roles can become excellent advocates for a nonprofit’s purpose.
Make it fun
Take time to really build a volunteer community. For instance, pair newbies with enthusiastic team leaders or staff who will help generate conversation during work shifts. This will help keep people occupied during their time and will also start building connections among the volunteers as they begin to get to know each other.
Say thank you
Always remember to thank volunteers for their time. If they don’t feel appreciated then they won’t want to come back. A great way for an organization to show how thankful it is for people’s participation is to hold a volunteer appreciation night. During this event, a nonprofit could host a dinner with a slideshow flipping through fun photos of previous volunteer events. FindLaw also suggested handing out awards for various volunteer accomplishments, such as most hours worked.