In the ever-changing world and emergence of technology, increased working hours, personal and family commitments, one thing is for certain and that is volunteers are hard to come by. So how do we do it? How can a fledging nonprofit manager or volunteer coordinator sift through all the chaos and create a sound strategy to plan, recruit, and manage a group of volunteers? Volunteers fill a key role in running nonprofit organizations, many people just think volunteers are just stopping by when they can to do menial work, but the fact is many handle everyday tasks and fund raising. This doesn’t stop just there because even if paid staff are hired passing up on talented volunteers that have skills sets like engineering, medical, and financial wizards can very beneficial.
So how do we start? Well, first you will need to define a mission. The mission help define how to reach the goal embodied in your vision. Planning for your volunteer programs helps give you an idea of how volunteers will contribute and fit into your organization’s overall structure to be effective. You will need to determine the mission of your volunteer program and the jobs your volunteers will be doing. This essential planning process will include seeking advice from the very people or community that will be affected by the volunteer program. You will need to answer several questions like how you will be able to expand your services if you use volunteers, or how will using volunteers save your organization money because by planning and answering some internal questions your job will be to build the foundation for a volunteer program that will assist you in developing positions that are meaningful and important. The next step is to set goals and objectives for volunteer because they can enhance your service delivery and programs while filling in unique roles, so you don’t duplicate efforts.
Another important thing to look at is determining whether your organization even has the capacity to sustain a volunteer program. One thing to consider is space and the understanding that a volunteer program is very consuming, and any free time and other resources will need to be invested to guarantee that your volunteers are useful. Your cost can include marketing, volunteer recruitment, volunteer application and screening process, any kind of orientation and training, evaluation, and recognition. Don’t be intimidated with the huge task of a volunteer program, it’s a worth endeavor and great investment for any nonprofit organization that has found the need for a volunteer program and is willing to make that drive to build one. The benefits will by far outweigh the initial investment in the long run.
A key component of a volunteer program is your board of directors whether that be one person, or several board members should be involved in all aspects of a new volunteer program, beginning with the planning. The board must also make a commitment to support and encourage volunteer involvement and realize a volunteer program will improve the non profits image, help expand available services, lead to increased fundraising, and bring in talent of multiple career experience or skillsets. There are multiple ways the board can help and that would be to disseminate recruitment materials at their workplaces or other events they might attend or mentioning volunteer opportunities at their public speaking engagements that might be scheduled.
After you decide how to use your volunteers you will need to write up position descriptions that have been identified. These descriptions will help you screen, place, and evaluate volunteers while also allowing volunteers to screen themselves out because they will be able to tell if they have the essential skills, time, and interest to be effective with the position tasks outlined. Also keep in mind that any position can be a volunteer position given the right building blocks, motivation, and volunteer skillsets. Make sure the volunteer description is clearly written so expectations are understood, having those components will increase the likely hood that volunteers will be better at the job while feeling more satisfied with their assignments then a volunteer who don’t understand their role.
The next step in the process that a nonprofit organization will need to go through after the planning process is the recruiting stage. This stage is just as important because developing a solid group is important to the organization, they are the heart and soul of any nonprofit organization performing various tasks and services that keep the organization moving. People volunteer for nonprofit organizations they believe are beneficial and fill their personal needs. They want to know that their hard-free work will make a difference and usually like to volunteer for nonprofits that promote a particular cause. People volunteer for many reasons, but their perception of the nonprofit will attract them initially. One should not assume that the public knows what the nonprofit is and what it does and its important when they do know that it is perceived that your organization will be of value to the community. Volunteer recruitment means attracting and inviting all sorts of people, this crucial stage an internal review needs to be done to find out what the outside community thinks about your nonprofit. The information from that review can help in the creation of a recruitment plan.
So, if the nonprofit is confident that they can attract volunteers and bring value to them we will move on to how and where to get your fresh recruits from. The truth is and depending on the size of organization the first volunteers that are recruited are of the board of directors. These people can be influential community members, leaders, or professionals with an interest in your nonprofits mission. These first volunteers can help recruit other volunteers and are the face of your organization and will often be your biggest donors. All of these actually puts them in the best position to promote the nonprofits mission and values to future volunteers. Using other methods to attract volunteers can be as diverse as you want it to be but when which method consider the time each possible road will require to plan, develop, and execute as well as the time it will require to maintain in the long run. A few ideas a nonprofit can do for recruitment is contacting a local volunteer center, using mass media like newspapers or newsletters, making announcements at social gatherings or meetings, posting volunteer opportunities on appropriate web sites, making appearances at career fairs or senior centers, staffing booths and exhibits at special events, or registering with volunteer referral organizations. The variety of methods and creativity can produce a lot more then I have listed, these was only the main and obvious ones. One last thing on method is you can do printed material because that is important to any recruitment plan. Printed pamphlets and flyers can be used in mailings or as free informational packets at presentations and events. A nonprofit can also use posters, and things like envelope stuffers to draw attention to the recruitment plan. Before spending the time and money on printing serious thought will need to take place about how you are going to use and distribute the printed material. To make the printed material work the most efficient include information on where to send any monetary donations, let it do some multitasking. We have the how out of the way now let’s move on to the where part of your recruitment plan. Your recruitment message should be welcoming and positive, so it makes people want to become involved with your nonprofit organization. In doing this you might want several different recruitment messages tailored to the different volunteers the nonprofit needs, like high school or college students, professionals, neighborhood residents, or the family members of your clients. Each message will need to have the same message, but it should identify the various needs in which your organization wants and how that volunteer can help with the needs and the benefits. When looking for those volunteers you will need to look beyond the immediate needs because while your looking for volunteers for next event you might find a technical person or some kind of accounting or money savvy person who is willing to share his or her skills with your nonprofit. Constantly look for new volunteers so that your nonprofit doesn’t rely too heavily on the same volunteers for every task because they can have burnouts and leave your organization. This may cause you to have a difficult time finding a person who as the adequate knowledge and experience. Recruitment can seem to be a daunting task, but you can look in a few places listed below.
Volunteer Referral Services
These services and be a great help in guiding potential volunteers to your nonprofit. These services help volunteers to find all kinds of positions that fit well with their skills, interests, and availability. You will definitely want to register with any database, directory, or program offering volunteer referral services. These services can be citywide, statewide, or nationwide.
Young people can make huge contributions to a volunteer force because not only does it benefits the student but also the community. Some high schools are even requiring community service for students to graduate, students may even develop lifelong dedication to community support and perhaps help convince the students guardians to donate their time or money. College students can offer a plethora of professional-level services, with connections to university resources like national honor societies, professional and social fraternities and sororities, or even campus clubs and student associations. These doors have great potential and resources for locating volunteers.
Many businesses include community involvement plans and will be more then happy to help nonprofit organizations by contributing donations, equipment, and someservices. I see this even at my job at First Data now Fiserv, we do food can drives, clothing drives, and Christmas gift drives for children associated with a nonprofit organization.
These are just a few examples of places one can go to look for volunteers but remember you can use what they call volunteer applications for the interview and screening process. Using volunteer applications can all be different depending on the level of detail your looking for but minimally you will want qualifications they believe they have, work and volunteer experience, skills, interests, and motivations for volunteering. Utilizing this information to identify possible roles for that volunteer and screen which can assist the placement of volunteers and give you solace that you placed the best possible future volunteer in each position. Establishing a simple screening process also helps to eliminate the risk and protect your nonprofit’s reputations, clients, and other volunteers. A major part of that process is background and personal reference checks specially when providing care to vulnerable individuals. Hopefully your nonprofit already has a policy and procedure for background checks and what kind of checks are needed whether it be fingerprints, driving records, and criminal records.
While we are talking about background checks and screening volunteers your nonprofit organization needs to create a risk management and liability plan, this is very important when working with volunteers. These plans help protect anybody involved in the volunteer program from any personal harm, potential property loss, and future lawsuits. All leaders should be a part of the risk management and liability plan and make sure items are looked like the nonprofit’s insurance coverage, state restrictions and regulations regarding youth, and processes to have volunteers sign agreements and waivers.
Once you have the planning and recruiting down and your volunteers are all starting to show up to work what next? How do you control the masses or give direction? You guessed it you need to manage or designate a manager or leader to guide your volunteers. Just because volunteers don’t get any monetary benefits doesn’t mean they don’t work and managing them is the same has a paid team so assign a supervisor or instance. The supervisor will allow the volunteers to have someone they can turn for advice, guidance, and feedback in return the supervisor needs to provide the resources, on the job training, direction, and encouragement to all volunteers so they can perform their assigned tasks effectively.
Speaking of a supervisor, this position is perhaps the most important in your volunteer recruitment plan. A supervisor is tasked with the responsibility of getting jobs done by enabling others to do the work and foster or create an environment that empowers volunteers to perform their duties. Volunteers are willing to take responsibility for what they are doing, contribute more then expected, and perceive themselves as important members of the nonprofits staff when the supervisor supports empowerment. So, how can we empower volunteers? We provide them, clear expectations, adequate training and functional equipment, constant and ongoing communication, evaluation or reviews of performance, and regular reinforcement and recognition. Volunteers want and need to be held accountable for their overall performance and an effective supervisor that practices this will have volunteers who have confidence in themselves, are happy with their level of contribution, and can grow both personally and professionally through volunteering their services. Constant communication with volunteers is essential and supervisors need to develop positive relationships with volunteers and let them know that the nonprofit needs and values their volunteerism. In addition to sharing information with volunteers, supervisors should take the time to get the volunteers input because by seeking that input supervisors from volunteers they can get vital information that will help the organization better use volunteers and serve the community.
Most importantly for supervisors and any person at your organization is to treat your volunteers with respect and fon’t take them for granted or assume that they always will be available. The supervisor and you can use a theory called the “Pareto Principle,” or “80/20 Rule.” When this theory is applied to volunteers, it states that 20 percent of the volunteers are responsible for 80 percent of the results, so basically majority of volunteers help out now and then while a smaller group does all of the work. Members of that smaller group can get burned out and possibly leave your organization permanently so it’s very important you and your supervisor to avoid burnout and keep a huge chunk of that group of committed volunteers active for a long time by being aware of the symptoms of burnout. Some of the common symptoms of a burn out may include anger, loss of energy, loss of creativity spirit, and a loss of satisfaction at your nonprofit. If your volunteers seem unhappy, they probably are and your supervisor or your better start talking with them and put a plan in action to talk about any issues before your nonprofit loses them forever.
The importance of all three components of volunteering for a nonprofit organization I hope was displayed here. This is my favorite section of nonprofit management a close second would be marketing. I think I could have added other sections like training and a more in-depth separate part with evaluation but that would have been a much thicker essay so I just kept it with what I thought were necessary.
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