5 Steps for Implementing a New Engaging Volunteer Program

Volunteers make your community a better place. Discover how to engage and retain them with these tips to implement a new volunteer program.

5 Steps for Implementing a New Engaging Volunteer Program

Successful volunteer programs advance local, meaningful causes while also engaging volunteers by providing them with a community, new skill growth opportunities, and a sense of fulfilment. Volunteer centres starting a new volunteer program need to balance the personal interests of the individuals who sign up to volunteer with the needs of local causes.

An organised, focused program can engage volunteers, even when offering roles with fairly rote tasks. To get your program started, follow these five simple steps.

1. Establish volunteer responsibilities.

Before starting a volunteer program, determine what you will have volunteers do. Conduct a needs assessment survey, through which you’ll meet with various people in your community, look at studies conducted on ongoing local issues, and review any other relevant datasets to decide whether there is a significant need and if it can be addressed with a volunteer program.

As you discover opportunities for volunteers, follow these steps:

  • Connect with social organisations in your community. Work with other organisations in your community that address your areas of interest. Building connections can help you form long-term working relationships, share resources, and learn what volunteer management strategies have succeeded for other organisations.
  • Establish volunteer requirements. Determine what types of volunteers will be eligible for each opportunity you establish. For example, you might set a minimum age restriction or require that volunteers must be able to stand or sit for long periods. Consider necessary skills, like the ability to read and manage large data sets or work with animals. Additionally, consider when you will need volunteers. Most nonprofits tend to need more help during the last few months of the year due to increased service demands and the need for staff to manage fundraisers.
  • Estimate the number of roles. Keep track of the different volunteer opportunities that will be available and how many volunteers you need in each role. If an opportunity has a limited number of spots, consider integrating your website and volunteer management software to update the number of open positions in real-time. This will prevent overscheduling, while also incentivising potential volunteers to sign up quickly to ensure they get the opportunity they want. Luckily, a Deedmob platform allows you to do all of these tasks: set a limit to how many people can join and record your information in your organisation data or platform CRM.

Throughout the assessment process, take note of the current state of various causes in your community to establish baseline data. Then, as your volunteer program progresses, use this information to determine how impactful your efforts are and how you can potentially adjust your volunteer program to achieve better results. 

2. Appoint a volunteer program manager and supervisors.

Volunteers are more successful when they have proper coordination, training, and oversight. Determine who at your organisation will manage your volunteer program and what their responsibilities will include.

Appoint a volunteer manager who has previous experience managing groups of volunteers and volunteering themselves to ensure they have a holistic perspective. Additionally, they should have strong communication and organisational skills.

Volunteer management responsibilities include:

  • Assessing volunteer applications
  • Coordinating schedules
  • Planning onboarding sessions
  • Continuing communication with volunteers
  • Recording volunteer hours
  • Providing any assistance volunteers may need to complete their assigned tasks

For larger organisations, these responsibilities may be divided between multiple team members. Several of these tasks can also be streamlined with a Deedmob platform. Think about managing your opporutnities, hour registration and communication with volunteers. 

3. Implement necessary software solutions.

Managing multiple volunteers can quickly become complex, and to operate at scale, your organisation should consider investing in volunteer management software. Volunteer management software can help you automate various tasks, track relationships with volunteers over multiple years, and monitor each initiative’s progress.

Look for a platform with the following features:

  • Simple registration. Make your signup process as simple as possible. Streamline the signup process by using a volunteer management solution that comes with registration form capabilities. Interested supporters fill out a volunteer application on your website, which is then immediately synced with your volunteer management platform. This ensures their information is recorded and will be stored in one centralised database throughout their entire relationship with your organisation.
  • Communication. Staying in touch with volunteers is essential for keeping your program organised and building relationships with supporters. Use a volunteer management program that allows you to personalise your messages and create mailing lists based on relevant information.

4. Recruit volunteers.

Okay, you have already estabilised the basic structure of your volunteer program in steps 1-3. Now, you can begin crafting your outreach campaign. If your organisation already has a solid base of supporters, begin your efforts by getting in touch with them. Or, have members of your staff spread the word to their personal networks to bring in your first groups of volunteers.

You can improve your marketing strategy and reach a wider audience of volunteers by:

  • Creating detailed position descriptions. The more you can communicate to volunteers about open positions, the more accurately they will be able to self-select roles that align with their skills. Treat your volunteer recruitment posts like you would job postings. Include qualifications, expected daily tasks, and hours.
  • Determining your outreach platforms. Use the information you gathered in your initial assessment to determine what kinds of volunteers you need. Then, consider what communication channels those types of individuals likely use. For example, if you’re looking for skilled professionals, you will likely have more success performing outreach on a social media platform like LinkedIn rather than Instagram.
  • Offering incentives. Most supporters volunteer out of a desire to make a positive difference in their community. However, you can influence volunteers to sign up with your organisation specifically by highlighting the incentives your program offers. This might include skill training, a positive community, or free lunches.

To make a positive first impression on new volunteers, ensure your website has up-to-date information on your volunteer program and is easy to navigate. Consider going the extra mile by using your software to create online experiences and spaces for volunteers. Here, they can communicate with one another to answer each other’s questions, share insights and form a community around your program.

5. Thank volunteers for their participation.

The most successful volunteer programs are able to keep their supporters coming back over and over again. This allows them to have experienced participants who can help guide and train newcomers, while also spreading positive word-of-mouth about your program.

To retain more volunteers, create a structured appreciation strategy. This might include instructing volunteer supervisors to check in with and thank volunteers at the end of each shift, sending small gifts in the mail, or hosting appreciation events.

Of course, straightforward, earnest thank-you letters can also go a long way toward showing volunteers you appreciate them. Fundraising Letter’s guide to volunteer thank-you letters advises making your letters as specific as possible. Create a standardised template you can use as a base, then fill it with details unique to each volunteer, such as the programs they’ve worked on, the number of hours volunteered, and any specific contributions they made.

Engaged volunteers are productive, passionate, and likely to stick with your cause for the long-haul. Attract more volunteers to your organisation and keep them engaged by having clear roles and responsibilities, keeping your program organised, and showing your appreciation for everything they do.

Some highlights of 5 years at Deedmob

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Gerbrand Holland

Growth Manager

Gerbrand Holland is Growth Manager at Deedmob