How to Deepen Your Impact by Engaging Skilled Volunteers

Our recent announcement of a new partnership to automatically post all skilled volunteer listings from the VolunteerMatch network to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace has shed a serious spotlight on the importance and potential of skilled volunteering. Check out this special series of posts exploring skilled volunteering as a category, a strategy, and, of course, an inspiration for greater impact.

How to deepen engagement by recruiting skilled volunteers for your nonprofitSo, with the help of VolunteerMatch and LinkedIn, you have a (free!) tool at your disposal for recruiting awesome skilled volunteers to support your nonprofit with important, high-impact projects.

But where do you start? What outcomes would be most valuable? How do you work out those nuts and bolts like screening, security, and accountability? Would something like this even be worthwhile for your organization to pursue?

Start by allowing yourself to think big for a minute. What could your organization achieve, if you had no funding and operational limits? What pain points have you grown so used to, that you’ve forgotten they could be different? What have you dreamed of doing but never thought possible? You’re doing good work, but couldn’t your impact be expanded?

Maybe your website does the job, but just barely. Or your logo and branding aren’t keeping up with the design-centric world we live in, and no longer gets the attention or respect you want for your nonprofit. There might be some really juicy data that you could share with potential donors, but can’t extract from your messy database. Perhaps you’ve tried your hand at social media marketing and PR, but nothing seems to work and you still only have a few followers. Or maybe you’ve been dreaming about that perfect fundraising event, but have no idea where to start…

As the wheels start turning, consider whether your organization could benefit from expertise in some of these areas:

  • Graphic and Web design
  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Database management
  • Event planning
  • HR
  • Branding and messaging
  • IT
  • Market research
  • Strategic planning

The list goes on and on. Once you have your project in mind, and you’ve got some other members of your team on board with the idea of working with skilled volunteers, here are some things to think about as you get started.

Finding the Right Volunteer for the Job

It doesn’t hurt to cast a wide net. Post the opportunity on VolunteerMatch and select the desired skill set, and we’ll share the listing with 300 million skilled professionals on LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace. Be sure to make your listing as clear and detailed as possible. The more volunteers know up front, the more likely they’ll be to seriously consider getting involved. Keep in mind that this is a professional relationship, and it should be approached in much the same way as hiring a paid staff person or service provider.

In addition to posting on VolunteerMatch, look at who you have in your existing team of volunteers. Do any of them have the skills you’re looking for? Spread the word in your volunteer newsletter about an exciting new way to get involved. You can also approach local businesses, universities, and professional groups. Many of these people will jump at the chance to hone their own professional skills for a good cause while expanding their network at the same time.

Screening Candidates

Are you wary of handing over your organization’s sensitive information for security reasons? Good! You should be! But that doesn’t mean there’s not a smart way to do it. Even if there isn’t any security risk associated with your project, you still want to screen candidates to make sure they’ll be reliable, trustworthy, and actually have the skills and experience to do a good job. Ask for resumes, conduct interviews, check their references, run background checks.

Remember that you don’t want just anyone. Engaging the wrong volunteer could result in wasted time and resources for everyone. If you don’t think someone is the best person for the role, tell them just that.

Defining the Project and Managing Expectations

When you’re engaging a volunteer to support you with a complex project or task, it’s important to lay everything out on the table. Put the desired outcomes down in writing, along with a proposed timeline and designated check-in points. Each party should sign a letter of agreement or memorandum of understanding (MoU). Everyone should be on the same page from the start about what a successful completion will look like. Then, you can take a step back and let everyone do what they do best.

Embarking on big projects with skilled volunteers can be daunting, especially if you’ve never engaged volunteers on this level before, or if you tried it once and things didn’t go so well. But professionals today have so much value to share with the nonprofit community, and when approached in the right way, skilled volunteering relationships can be rewarding for everyone involved–your organization, your volunteers, and those you serve.

Does your organization engage skilled volunteers to achieve greater impact? Tell us about it!

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