It’s no secret that a reliable group of hard-working volunteers is one of the primary driving forces behind successful nonprofits. What may elude charity leadership committees are effective solutions for recruiting, retaining, and rewarding volunteers. Here are some tips to improve volunteer experiences:
The Corporation for National and Community Service recently completed a study entitled Volunteering and Civic Life in America. Its findings shed light on the power of volunteers and charitable work in the U.S. For instance, in 2013, 62.6 million Americans spent almost 7.7 billion hours on volunteer work. Over 138 million people living in the U.S. also participated in what is called “informal volunteering,” a term that applies to unorganized or unofficial events, such as helping neighbors with yard work or babysitting.
While these statistics do reveal the compassionate nature many Americans have toward each other, there are still areas in need of drastic improvement. Greg Baldwin, president of Volunteer Match and a participant in Re imagining Service, a group that looks for ways to improve volunteer participation, noted that 62.6 million Americans only accounts for about 25 percent of the adult population in the U.S. Baldwin believes the country can do better because 25 percent is actually the lowest rate of volunteerism in a decade.
Baldwin stated that volunteering must be one of a nonprofit’s core strategies, not an afterthought to operations. Volunteers help charities meet goals, increase funding, and spread the mission to others. Plus, 79.2 percent of people who give their time to an organization also donated funds; only 40.4 percent of non-volunteers gave money to charity.
Social good also cannot be the sole responsibility of nonprofits in a particular community. All sectors have to work together to increase the level of charitable giving and volunteerism. Baldwin encouraged businesses and nonprofits to assess community needs first, before recruiting volunteers. By strategically identifying the needs of a community, nonprofits can strategically market opportunities to help and find people with skill sets that apply directly to the issues at hand.
Once volunteers have been recruited, it’s important to support them through every stage of participation.
According to the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy’s survey “Recruiting, Retaining and Rewarding Volunteers,” two of the top volunteer-requested methods for improving the recruitment process were organizational image-building and communicating expectations. Nonprofits need to make people aware of their efforts and mission. They also need to provide volunteers with explicit directions for achieving outcomes. This transparency helps establish a more meaningful connection between parties and makes fulfilling duties easier for volunteers.
The No. 1 thing charities can do to improve their retention is show their volunteer workers appreciation. One excellent way to do this, according to Baldwin, is measuring volunteer success through impact, rather than turnout. Let a community know about the terrific ways in which volunteers have contributed to make it a better place. This recognition is not only a great way to spread the word about a mission, it’s a public display of appreciation.
One of the few issues many volunteers took with the nonprofits for which they volunteered, according to the “Recruiting, Retaining and Rewarding Volunteers” survey, was a lack of resources. This meant that things like training, receiving adequate information about clients, and working with a staff equipped to handle the project volume need to be reworked. Nonprofits interested in finding better ways to recruit, train, engage and keep volunteers should consider adopting volunteer management software. A reliable software platform can enhance a charity’s ability to track volunteer contact information and the past events in which each volunteer participated. It’s an invaluable resource for any organization in all sectors.
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