5 Resolutions to Make 2012 the Year of the Nonprofit Volunteer Program

Engaged Volunteers of Our City Forest in San Jose, Calif.

Engaged volunteers of Our City Forest in San Jose, Calif.

No matter how you fared with last year’s resolutions, it’s a new year, and now is the time to start fresh for 2012 – what do you want to accomplish by this time next year? How will you help your nonprofit and volunteers to have a bigger impact?

Here are 5 resolutions we think are the most important for volunteer managers in 2012:

Go Viral

These days, social media and online engagement require a holistic approach. As our president Greg Baldwin pointed out in his presentation at the Social Media for Nonprofits conference, volunteers are donors are volunteers are supporters, so when you talk about your volunteer needs, talk to your donors, and vice versa.

It’s also important to use multiple channels and multiple strategies to make your organization’s needs and news go viral among your supporters. Just using Twitter won’t necessarily engage the college students on Facebook, and it probably won’t reach the Mommy bloggers on their network, either. So do your homework about where your supporters are, and spread your message as far and wide as you can.

Concentrate on Impact and Measurement

It’s now more important than ever for nonprofits to showcase their impact in measurable, concrete ways. This includes the impact of volunteers, as Tobi Johnson points out in her ebook, “The New Volunteer Manager: The First 90 Days.”

Believe it or not, this is not as daunting a task as it seems. You can learn how to measure the value of your volunteers, use data to make your decisions, and illustrate your impact to funders and other supporters.

Partner with Businesses

There is no doubt about it – corporate volunteering is on the rise. In 2010 45% of volunteer referrals that happened in the VolunteerMatch system came from our corporate network, and we’re expecting an even larger number for 2011.

Engaging corporate employees will definitely be a relevant topic for volunteer managers over the coming year, and developing a strategy to partner with businesses looking to help your cause and community is a big step towards creating a vibrant, sustainable, impactful volunteer program.

Engage Skilled Volunteers

With the launch of LinkedIn’s “Volunteer Experience & Causes” section, volunteering became an even more relevant aspect of the professional world. It also highlighted the growing importance of skilled volunteering to nonprofits.

Whether you’re talking about someone to create a new database system for you, draft up a marketing plan, or be your on-call plumber, there are skilled volunteers ready to work for your organization for free simply because they believe in what you are doing. So go find them! Tools like LinkedIn and VolunteerMatch’s Listing Wizard can be a big help with that.

Continue to Focus on Professional Development

We said it last year, and we’ll say it again: You should always be looking for new ways to learn and grow in your position. This will in the long run be better for you, for your volunteers and for your organization.

This year will be a big year for VolunteerMatch’s Learning Center, so take a look now and sign up for the free webinars that interest you. And to take it one step further, consider getting your CVA credential (you can learn more about the CVA during our free webinar on Tuesday, Jan 17th).

I hope this list has you as jazzed up about 2012 as I am. As you develop your own resolutions for the coming year, these tips can arm you with the know-how you need to make 2012 the year of the volunteer program at your organization.

Have any other volunteer-related resolutions to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

5 thoughts on “5 Resolutions to Make 2012 the Year of the Nonprofit Volunteer Program

  1. Pingback: Don’t Fall Short of Your New Year’s Resolutions—5 Nonprofit Resolutions for Your Volunteer Management - Nonprofit Hub - Nonprofit Hub

  2. Thanks for launching us nto 2012 with gusto! I especially love the part about measurement and impact. Many of us have set a lot of goals for 2012, but we also have to think about how we’re going to measure our progress towards those goals. Here’s to a data-driven 2012!

    • Thanks, Holly! Anyone looking for ways to be more data-driven should totally check out NTEN’s network of peers, experts and resources – naturally the Nonprofit Technology Network is THE place to go to learn how to wrangle data!

  3. Great ideas, Sharon, but can I add two more?

    1. Stop referring to volunteer involvement as something that only happens in “nonprofits.” There may be more volunteering done on behalf of government agencies — public settings — than in voluntary organizations. Just think of schools, libraries, parks, forests, prisons, courts, firefighting, police…and more! On every level of government, too, from the national to the local. In fact, in the smallest communities, elected officials are frequently themselves volunteers! (I started in this field by instituting volunteer involvement for the Philadelphia Family Court, so I’ve always reacted to this exclusive pairing of “nonprofit” with “volunteer.”)

    2. Try to avoid the term volunteer “program.” Volunteers are not a “program,” they are part of the team delivering services. After all, we don’t talk about an “employee program,” do we? I have certainly been guilty of this inaccurate language in the past, but have been trying hard to avoid it whenever I can now.

    Happy new year, everyone!

    • Thank you for the excellent points, Susan! Here at VolunteerMatch we mainly work with nonprofits (although we do work with some government agencies), so we are often addressing them directly. But I will definitely try to switch over to more inclusive language moving forward. Additionally, while the bulk our Education & Training offerings are geared for organizations who do run specific programs, efforts or departments to engage and manage volunteers, I can see where it would seem like a silo-ing effort to constantly refer to them as such.

      As always, thanks for your great contribution!