Caring for Volunteers

In honor of National Volunteer Week, this post is dedicated to all volunteers who dedicate themselves to the nonprofit causes they care about.

How do nonprofits demonstrate care for the people who voluntarily serve them? Smart leaders know that effectively managing volunteers takes more than a “recruit ‘em & recognize ‘em” approach. Their organizations are intentional and proactive in engaging, developing and retaining volunteer talent.

For nonprofit professionals and volunteers new to volunteer engagement and management, here are some guidelines to help you create a strong volunteer experience.

1. Learn about your volunteers: who they are, their interest in serving your organization, and their expectations as volunteers. Ask them:

  • What about this organization appealed to you to get you involved?
  • What do you expect to give and get from your volunteer involvement?
  • Would you recommend this organization to other volunteers?

Also consider exit interviews with volunteers who leave your organization – whether through rotating volunteer service, term limits, burn-out, or other reason – to learn more about the volunteer experience.

2. Clarify and clearly communicate what your organization expects from its volunteers and what they can expect from you. Be honest about the time commitment and effort involved.

3. Provide the necessary tools and information volunteers need to best serve your nonprofit. This includes orientation and training, your mission-focused strategy and plans, program overviews and updates, etc. Also consider how operational or policy changes may impact volunteer efforts, and communicate any changes and the rationale behind them in a timely manner.

4. Recognize and acknowledge your volunteers’ value. While National Volunteer Week provides an opportunity to celebrate volunteers, it’s important to let volunteers know they’re appreciated throughout the year.

5. Proactively listen to your volunteers – ask for their feedback and ideas – and respond appropriately.

Volunteers are precious resources. Treat them carefully and with the respect they deserve.


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