Having a volunteer engagement plan that aligns with your nonprofits mission, values, and goals can increase volunteer retention and convert prospects to brand champions.

How your nonprofit engages with volunteers can keep them signing up for new opportunities or potentially push them away from your brand.  To be successful in 2017, your organization should really take the time to learn as much as you can about your ideal volunteer, and what motivates them to be a part of your cause. Focusing your effort on understanding these components can help you to create a more strategic volunteer engagement plan.

A volunteer engagement plan is much more than just creating a quality experience for volunteers.  It should become a set of guidelines and standards that your nonprofit can replicate across all volunteer touchpoints. Your plan should also consider the future and changes in volunteer behavior over time.

Before we dive into how to create a strategic volunteer engagement plan here are a few key questions to think about:

  1. Have you thought about your goals for your volunteer engagement plan?
  2. Have you defined a clear-cut ROI for measuring the success of your plan (ROI doesn’t always equal money)?
  3. Do you have buy-in organization-wide for creating a volunteer engagement plan?
  4. Is your organization incorporating volunteer engagement into its overall strategic plan?
  5. If you asked a volunteer about their experience with your nonprofit what would they say today?
  6. What does your plan look like now? What do you want it to look like?

Reasons to Develop a Strategic Volunteer Engagement Plan

There are many reasons why your nonprofit should create (in writing) a volunteer engagement plan.  Volunteers are the backbone for most nonprofits and can fill vital roles. The average volunteer hour is worth an estimated $24.00. Not engaging volunteers can cost a nonprofit money and a loss of valuable resources.  Here are a few other reasons to create a volunteer engagement plan:

  • Developing a plan for volunteer engagement can have a positive impact on retention rates and free up more of your staff’s time to focus on other business components outside of recruitment.
  • Volunteers provide much-needed skills that help to push the organization’s mission further.
  • Volunteers can bring enthusiasm to your organization and keep others engaged in the organizational goals.
  • Volunteers can provide your organization with valuable feedback that can be used to make optimizations to your nonprofit processes and procedures.

Ask Important Questions and Analyze Organizational Goals

The first step to creating an effective volunteer engagement plan is to ask the right questions to your team.  These will get you started:

  1. What type of volunteers does your organization need?
  2. What are the skills your organization is looking for from prospects?
  3. How many hours will volunteers need to devote to an opportunity?
  4. What is the average volunteer opportunity served frequency?

Understand Volunteers and their Behaviors

Once your nonprofit has answered your list of essential questions it is time to think about who your ideal volunteer is.  Understanding who your ideal volunteer is will allow your organization to create campaigns that target them, and engagement strategies that appeal to their preferences.  Appealing to your ideal volunteer’s preferences creates instant engagement.  A few questions to consider when analyzing who your ideal volunteer is are:

  1. Why does your organization’s mission, values, and goals appeal to your target volunteer?
  2. What are the values, beliefs, and interests of your target volunteer?
  3. Does your target volunteer have any time restraints that would prevent them from involvement in an opportunity?
  4. What are your target volunteers trying to get from your nonprofits opportunities?
  5. Why would your target volunteer want to help your organization?

Develop Engagement Strategies Based on Target Volunteer.

Once you fully understand who your target volunteer is and what is important to them the process of creating appealing engagement strategies and ways to manage volunteers will become much easier.  Put yourself in your volunteer’s shoes and focus on strategies that will mean something to them. Remember, your volunteer engagement strategy should create lifelong volunteers, build relationships, create brand champions, increase retention rates, and fulfill any other goals you have identified.



Here are a few volunteer engagement strategies that you may want to consider:

  • Create volunteer specific (segmented) outreach campaigns based on prospect behavior.
  • Automate some of the volunteer outreach process to test strategies and processes
  • Record volunteer data in your organizations CRM system
  • Integrate your organizations CRM with a volunteer management solution
  • Show appreciation to your volunteers (simple but effective)
  • Provide prospects a wide range of involvement opportunities and leverage skill-sets.


Final Thoughts

The best way to engage and retain volunteers is to have a strategic plan in place.  Your organization should be consistently testing new ways to create engagement with your volunteers and opportunity prospects.  The best way to begin a volunteer engagement plan is to brainstorm and answer questions to find out who your ideal volunteer is.  Once you have determined who your target is you will be able to identify what is important to them in the volunteer experience.  Leverage these factors and you will have a great engagement plan in no time.

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