Volunteering Reinvented: Tactics to Help Retain Your Volunteers
We can probably all agree that volunteers are qualified to do much more than simply stuff envelopes. In fact, in order to grow and adapt in a constantly changing society, nonprofits today must realize the true value and contribution of volunteers.
Some nonprofits have already grasped this concept and are taking what experts refer to as a “talent management” approach, investing in the overall organization to recruit, develop, recognize and retain volunteers.
Yet, while many organizations continue to recruit multitudes of volunteers, it does not necessarily translate into instant success.
Truthfully, only positive, lasting results can be achieved when a nonprofit is able to support and strategically manage its volunteer resources for the greatest possible impact.
Volunteers Bring Value
Volunteers today make up a powerful force — one with the potential to make our world a better place by creating happier, more connected communities.
These individuals are not just “nice,” but rather a necessity to many of society’s most urgent challenges, from illiteracy and disaster response to caring for seniors or individuals with chronic illnesses.
I believe certain tasks are simply best performed by volunteers. Think about it: certain targeted individuals may know their local assets, key players and even underlying challenges better than any paid staff person, helping an organization stay better connected to the community.
While your strategies for "talent management" will vary depending on the nature of your volunteer-related needs, here are two rules of thumb every nonprofit should remember:
1. Don’t Let Just Anyone Take the Reins
One way to ensure you recruit and retain the right volunteers is to create a volunteer job description that forces staff to identify specific areas of need. The key is to fill this need with the right person, and not just anyone who walks in the door.
2. Always (Yes, Always) Recognize Their Needs
It’s vital that organizations understand that today’s volunteers have their own expectations and needs that must be met. For nonprofit leaders, it is both a challenge and opportunity to meet these expectations by creating flexible, reasonable and strategic opportunities for volunteers.
This leads to another important point: always take the time to recognize outstanding volunteers through as many channels as possible, including things like newsletter articles or special awards at fundraising events.
After all, there is no better way to keep dedicated volunteers than by making them feel part of the team through special recognition.
If nonprofits truly want highly skilled volunteers to engage and stay with their organization, they must start expanding their vision of volunteering by creating an experience that is not only stimulating and meaningful for the volunteer, but also develops skills, demonstrates impact, and ultimately taps into volunteers’ abilities and personal interests.