5 Ways Nonprofits Can Effectively Engage Employees and Volunteers

“Mission matters. The people behind the mission also matter, and their passion for the mission can never be taken for granted.”  [from Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits.]                                       

This is why engaging staff members and volunteers involves special care beyond just a “recruit ‘em & recognize ‘em” approach.

How do nonprofit leaders and managers effectively attract, develop, and retain talent? They succeed by intentionally creating a positive workplace culture. Here’s how.

1. Learn about your employees and volunteers: who they are, their interest in serving your organization, and their expectations of working with you. Ask them:

  • What appealed to you to join our organization?
  • What inspires you most about being here?
  • What do you expect to give and get from serving as an employee or volunteer?
  • Would you recommend this organization to others?

Also conduct exit interviews with people who voluntarily leave your organization so you can learn more about their employee or volunteer experience.

2. Clarify and clearly communicate what your organization expects from its staff and volunteers and what they can expect from you. Be honest about what everyone’s commitment entails.

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

4. Recognize and acknowledge your employees’ and volunteers’ value. While designated “holidays” like Employee Appreciation Day and National Volunteer Week provide an opportunity to celebrate the people who serve your organization, it’s important to let them know they’re appreciated throughout the year.

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

Nonprofit employees and volunteers are precious resources. Treat them carefully and with the respect they deserve.

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