While it may be easy to attract motivated volunteers to your organization, it is much more difficult to transform that energy into a dedicated, long-term group of volunteers. And that evolution is worth it – Independent Sector, a non-profit advocacy organization, puts the value of the average volunteer hour at $24.69. When you consider the great work your volunteers provide gratis, especially organizations that are entirely volunteer-run or rely on volunteers to provide specialized services, it makes sense to implement a few impactful measures in your volunteer program to help keep your volunteers coming back.
Professionalize the volunteer experience.
Most volunteers do not come to an organization for the simple reason of occupying idle hands. Instead, they typically have a vested interest in the cause you represent, want to learn what it means to “work” in your field and build a network, or would like to gain a new skill set or enhance an existing one – or all of the above! These motivations are great for your organization and should be cultivated. Some organizations do this by facilitating a formal training, offering opportunities for professional development workshops, or fostering a volunteer network that serves to share expertise and provide support. Other organizations may ask volunteers to commit to a loose schedule or help them to create and execute performance goals within their volunteer time. And don’t forget to recognize and elevate volunteers who demonstrate leadership qualities – they could be your next volunteer coordinator who helps you to administer your now comprehensive volunteer program.
Respect their interests and skills.
Building off the previous ideas, be sure to take the time to ask each volunteer what interests them in their volunteer work, and what skills they bring to the table. Most volunteers are looking for a meaningful experience in which they can feel that they are genuinely contributing. If there are opportunities to bring them into a project that plays to their talents or interests, it is worth proposing to them, even if some of the parts of the job are less inspiring, like post-fundraiser clean up or mucking out the shelter pet crates.
Remember your volunteers are not your employees.
Organizations are on the receiving end of a very valuable gift from their volunteers – they give their time, energy, and expertise while organizations get a lot more done without increasing their payroll. Though many would say they get a great deal of intangible benefits from volunteering, like a sense of giving back or new skills, it doesn’t hurt to further compensate volunteers by making it an experience they truly enjoy. You can help them to connect with other volunteers or employees with similar interests and offer opportunities for everyone to socialize “off-the-clock.” And don’t forget to express your gratitude whenever you feel it. For all they do for organizations and the causes they champion, volunteers cannot hear “thank you” enough!
Ernst Wintter & Associates LLP specialize in California non-profit audits and tax preparation. Contact us today for help with your non-profit audit or tax prep needs.