Guest post by Shaunak Wanikar.
Volunteers are the heart of your organization. Are you spending as much time communicating with them as you should be?
Unfortunately, many organizations fail to communicate effectively with their volunteers for a variety of reasons. For example, they may not provide enough time and space for one-on-one interactions or they don’t have any proper mechanisms in place to receive feedback. Poor communication leaves your organization at risk for increased misunderstandings, unhappy volunteers, and volunteer attrition. It might even deter some volunteers from getting involved at all!
Of course, effectively communicating with a large group of people who may be spread out in different locations is easier said than done, which is why we’re highlighting five tips to help you develop strategies to tackle this problem and strengthen your volunteer engagement program.
1. Get To Know Your Volunteers
It’s critical to get to know your volunteers, so you can start to understand who they are, what they’re passionate about, and where their talents lie. When onboarding new volunteers, consider hosting an orientation session, where you can introduce them to your staff and start getting to know them.
Ask questions like, “What motivated you to volunteer?” or “Why did you choose our organization?” This will help you gauge their interests and find out what drives them, so you can figure out how they’ll best fit into your nonprofit.
While face-to-face interaction is preferable, you can always have volunteers answer these questions in a survey. This is particularly helpful if you work with large groups or remote volunteers.
2. Avoid Jargon And Be Specific
Unless the position you’re recruiting for requires a highly skilled individual, avoid using complicated and unnecessary jargon, especially when onboarding new volunteers with little-to-no experience. This could confuse or disengage potential contributors who may not understand your lingo. Simplify whenever possible!
You also want to be as specific as possible when discussing their role. Spell out the volunteers’ responsibilities clearly, so they know exactly what they’re getting into. You’ll also want to discuss any challenges they may encounter. For instance, if volunteers are fundraising door-to-door, there may be people who are rude to them. Clear, specific communication will prepare your volunteers for anything they may face.
3. Host Group Meetings And Get-Togethers
Periodically organizing group activities, such as picnics, dinners or trainings, can do wonders for volunteer engagement. In-person interaction gives volunteers and staff the chance to bond with each other and develop a sense of community and purpose. This feeling of oneness with the organization will help encourage volunteers to continue contributing.
4. Give Volunteers Opportunities To Voice Opinions
Effective communication also means giving volunteers a chance to voice their opinions or concerns, ask questions, and share suggestions. Whether a volunteer needs advice or feels displeased with how a particular activity is being managed, they should know how to contact you and should have multiple opportunities to do so.
If you’re hosting an in-person meeting, hold a Q&A session at the end of the event. If your volunteers are based in different cities, make sure they have your email and phone number. You can also send out surveys, have your staff check in with them one-on-one, or create a forum for volunteers on your website.
5. Use Different Methods Of Communication
Peer to peer texting, emails, phone calls, and social media, are just some of the many different platforms that you can use to communicate with your volunteers. Figure out what your needs are and then use an appropriate medium to communicate.
For example, if you have urgent volunteer needs, use peer to peer texting to send out a communication blast asking if volunteers can make it. To send out invites for a fundraising dinner, use email and post on social media. To thank your volunteers personally, give them a ring. If you need to have a serious discussion, a face-to-face conversation might work best.
Point is, with all these tools at your disposal, you can build a community of contributors who are all connected and dedicated to your organization’s mission.
With these tips in mind, it should be easy to develop an effective communication plan for your volunteer engagement program. Your organization and volunteers will all benefit if you learn to convey messages effectively while eliminating misconceptions.