Volunteering is just as American as football or apple pie, but even the best nonprofits can make volunteering a scary experience. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 64.5 million Americans, or 26.5 percent of the adult population, gave 7.9 billion hours of volunteer service worth $175 billion in 2012. In order to best tap this resource however, it is key to create a volunteer experience that lives on far after the volunteer has finished their time with you. Furthermore, you need to be active in your recruitment efforts! If your goal is to sit back and wait for volunteers to show up, then your efforts will be entirely in vain.
1. Do Nothing
That’s right, do nothing and you won’t have any volunteers. People volunteer so they can be a part of something and when they aren’t given a task or clear directions they won’t be around for long. According to Independent Sector, the estimated value of volunteer time for 2013 was $22.55 per hour. Would you want salaried employees standing around doing nothing for that amount of money? Instead, create task that best fits their personality.
La Keya Benton of York, PA noticed the need to help children become more physically fit, so she started coaching soccer. She knew she had a gift to help others, but baking brownies or soliciting donations was not one of them. To optimize volunteerism, simply ask volunteers what they would like to do or offer a few suggestions to help them pick which works best for them. Keep a list of ongoing needs so that volunteers can see what your needs are and how they can get involved.
2. Be Quiet
Ever wanted to know more about a company or person and Google them to find virtually nothing about their services? It basically looks as if someone abandoned ship or if a tumble weed is going to appear? Volunteers and potential volunteers feel the same way. You don’t have to be a tech guru to design a nice site anymore, platforms like WIX, Web.com and others make it easier to tell your story in the most vibrant and informative way.
Invest energy into telling your story and the story of your volunteers. Add photos and event updates on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to engage followers. You can also post information that is relevant to your cause and give your stance on it. Considering the shocking death of funny man Robin Williams, now would be the time to post tips on how to effectively cope with depression, how to help someone who is depressed and any other helpful information that could help community members that are struggling.
3. Never Say Thank You
One of the greatest gifts a volunteer can get in return is a thank you! Those two powerful words can bring new volunteers, donations, resources and more your way. People like to know they are part of an organization that cares. By saying thank you it opens the doors to creating long lasting relationships. It fosters a relationship that generates trust.
Volunteers or potential volunteers should be able to go online and see the value they bring. You can even design a message that stays on your site that thank volunteers for their time and effort. A card, email or a post shows that you aren’t just taking their time or skill, but that you are invested in them the way they are invested in you! Ideas on how to thank volunteers are virtually endless and are inexpensive. Think in terms of a community potluck, key chains, gift cards or a phone call, no thank you is too small.
The next time you are looking for volunteers or ways to improve your volunteer experience from a community standpoint, think of the list above to help you gauge volunteer interaction. Remember volunteering should be a return on investment for all parties involved.