The best way to future-proof your volunteer program is by adapting to the needs and expectations of volunteers that provide their time.
Creating a strategy and setting goals is one of the best ways that your organization can future-proof your volunteer program. At VolunteerHub, we are consistently looking at best practices, trends, and events that impact how nonprofits can better recruit, engage, and manage volunteers. In 2022, here are some of the best ways you can optimize your volunteer program and set it up strategically for the future.
Invest in Volunteer Management Software
Because volunteer management software has the potential to impact every facet of your volunteer program, it is first on the list. Investing in and implementing a volunteer management solution can help your nonprofit better engage, recruit, and manage volunteers. Volunteer management software can streamline your program, allow volunteers to register for opportunities online, and save your organization both time and resources. In fact, many VolunteerHub users have saved hundreds of hours a year by deploying volunteer management software.
Learn more about the benefits of volunteer management software here.
Onboarding is one of the first interactions your organization has with volunteers after they have registered for an opportunity. First impressions are crucial. Your volunteer onboarding process should include standardized training, help cultivate meaningful connections, and reinforce why your organization does what it does through its mission. The onboarding process provides your organization with an opportunity to turn volunteer prospects into life-long supporters.
A new trend in volunteer onboarding is the use of Learning Management Software (LMS) to provide volunteers with an interactive, standardized, online training experience.
Check out how the City of Dublin integrated VolunteerHub with Xcelerate Media’s LMS to create a virtual and automated process for registering and training here.
Engage Existing Volunteers
Engaging your existing volunteer constituents will be just as important tomorrow as it is today. Volunteers want to know that they are valued and that their contributions to your cause are not going unnoticed. Technology is making it easier for organizations to engage volunteers and measure engagement strategies.
Here are a few best practices for engaging volunteers:
- Make volunteers feel welcome (onboarding, team introduction).
- Communicate often through various mediums (email, text, social media).
- Acknowledge contributions via rewards and recognition.
- Challenge volunteer constituents through gamification.
- Share success stories and create social connectedness.
- Request and generate volunteer feedback (surveys, polls).
- Create opportunities for volunteers to learn new skills.
- Make signing up for new opportunities easy.
- Encourage volunteers to share opportunities with friends and family (viral experiences).
Offer Micro-Volunteerism Opportunities
According to The Institute of Volunteering Research and the National Council for Voluntary Organizations (NCVO), micro-volunteerism was created as a response to the growing demand for short-term flexible volunteer opportunities. Providing your volunteer prospects with micro-volunteer opportunities can help your organization leverage non-traditional volunteers who may not have time to fulfill a standard shift.
It is best to think of micro-volunteer opportunities as short-shifts, typically between 15 minutes to an hour, focused on achieving one output.
You can learn more about micro-volunteerism and how to leverage it here.
Diversify Your Volunteer Program
Leveraging different types of people from different backgrounds can help your organization effectively accomplish mission and build capacity. Diversity and inclusion continue to be a key focus for many organizations moving into the future because of the value it creates. Everyone has an idea or something that they can contribute towards the greater good. Here are some tips for diversifying your volunteer program.
- Remove any barriers that limit participation.
- Offer group volunteer opportunities.
- Leverage your donor base.
- Focus on building strong relationships.
- Embrace skill-based opportunities.
- Recruit from those who utilize your services.
- Create an inclusive culture.
- Accommodate volunteers from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Be genuine.
Create Virtual Volunteerism Opportunities
One of the biggest shifts that we have seen over the past couple of years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is virtual volunteerism. In fact, according to a recent report, virtual volunteering increased in 2020 from 32% to 51%. Creating virtual volunteer opportunities can help your organization reach a larger number of people and skill-sets. Technology advancements have also made it easier than ever to provide volunteers with virtual opportunities.
Here are some tips on recruiting and engaging virtual volunteers.
Survey Volunteers for Input
If you want to create a sustainable volunteer program that appeals to volunteers now and in the future it is key to get feedback. Volunteers offer some of the most valuable information you can gain about your program’s strengths and weaknesses. Your organization can gather volunteer feedback in a variety of ways including polls and surveys. We recommend creating and deploying a volunteer satisfaction survey and using responses to optimize your program.
Your organization may want to develop questions to learn more about:
- How volunteers identified opportunities with your nonprofit.
- Why volunteers were compelled to commit their time to your cause.
- What volunteers like and disliked about your organization’s training program.
- What roles your volunteers are most interested in pursuing.
- How your volunteers perceived their volunteer experience overall.
- If volunteers plan to commit their time to your organization in the future.
- Are volunteers interested in micro or virtual volunteer opportunities.
The best way to future-proof your volunteer program is by adapting to the needs and expectations of volunteers that provide their time. You can achieve this goal by investing in volunteer management software, streamlining your onboarding process, offering new ways for volunteers to provide their time (micro-volunteering, virtually), diversification, and leveraging volunteer feedback.