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7 min read

5 Ways to Build a Better Volunteer Program with Technology

April 3, 2024

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With a strong volunteer program, you can connect with supporters who are passionate about your cause, get assistance in delivering your mission and services to beneficiaries, and even discover more potential donors. 

To run a successful volunteer program that helps you reap all of these benefits, you’ll need the right technology on your side. In this quick guide, we’ll look at five ways you can use technology to inspire, recruit, and retain your volunteers, ultimately improving your program for the long haul and strengthening relationships with your supporters. Let’s begin. 

1. Use customized and integrated software. 

Your volunteer program can only run as efficiently as the underlying tools supporting it, like your nonprofit CRM, database, or volunteer management platform. 

Every volunteer program requires a central management tool to record data, manage projects, and promote campaigns, like a nonprofit CRM, database, or volunteer management platform. For mid- to large-sized organizations, this typically means using a more heavy-duty tool, such as Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT or Salesforce’s newest solution, Nonprofit Cloud

An effective CRM can exponentially increase both the internal efficiency of your operations and the value of all the data your volunteer program generates. Here are a few other specific benefits of taking a more deliberate approach to volunteer management using your CRM: 

  • Getting a comprehensive view of your volunteers. Your volunteers need their own profiles in your database so you can track their engagement histories, contact information, and other insights you learn along the way.
  • Designing unified engagement strategies. Use your data on both donors and volunteers to develop campaign strategies that connect all of your constituents. What proves to be the most exciting for each group?
  • Identifying solicitation opportunities. If you want to convert volunteers to donors, find those who’d be most likely to give based on their histories with you. Alternatively, use your wealth of data to identify potential major donors within your program.
  • Refining your communications techniques. More detailed and useful information about your volunteers can reveal a lot about their communication preferences. Use an integrated CRM system to find these insights and then personalize your messaging.

Many nonprofits find it easier to experience these benefits when their software is customized to their exact needs and integrated with other volunteer management tools. If this sounds like the right move for your organization, consider working with a nonprofit technology specialist. These experts can assess your current technology stack and help you refine it to better support your goals for your volunteer program.

2. Focus on segmenting your supporter list. 

Simply put, data segmentation involves using your data to target your communications to specific audiences. For nonprofit volunteer programs, refining your communication in this way is the key to keeping your supporters engaged.

Data segmentation is also where the usefulness of your integrated data warehouse or CRM really kicks in.

Whichever solution you use, your CRM is particularly important for developing communication and engagement strategies for your volunteer program. Interacting with volunteers generates a lot of data, all of which can be recorded, sorted, and used to continually refine your strategies. 

Consider these data points when segmenting your supporters:

  • Location
  • Demographic and contact information (like age and preferred language for communications)
  • History of involvement with your volunteer program
  • Employment and corporate philanthropy affiliations
  • Certifications
  • Any specific data points collected in a volunteer questionnaire, like preferred times to volunteer and personal interests

The payoff for establishing clear data reporting protocols, asking volunteers for more information, and configuring your software to handle it all is practically immediate when you start segmenting your volunteers.

Think of the many ways you could improve your campaign planning and marketing strategies. Sending volunteer event invites to those within a 30-mile radius of the project site, for instance, saves your team effort and ensures your emails won’t flood the inboxes of those who most likely wouldn’t be able to attend anyway.

3. Personalize your engagement with volunteers. 

Once you’ve segmented your volunteers, you can more fully personalize your interactions with each of them. Personalization contributes to a culture of high engagement and loyalty within your organization. Your volunteers will feel more appreciated and connected to your organization when they see your team taking the time to get to know them and using what you know about them to personalize their experiences volunteering with you. 

Use your organization’s integrated tools to provide a more personalized experience at all levels of your volunteer program: 

  • Use customized greetings. Integrate your email automation or text messaging tools and volunteer management database to populate messages with recipients’ names. Thoughtful moves like this leave a great impression on volunteers.
  • Personalize volunteer opportunities. Use volunteer preferences to populate the “upcoming volunteer opportunities” section of your emails or volunteer portal based on their preferences. This increases the chances that your organization will fill open slots—and that volunteers will get to do work they enjoy. 
  • Provide volunteer statistics. When volunteers see how long they have been volunteering for your organization, how many hours they have devoted, or how many volunteer events they’ve attended, they’ll feel confident that you recognize all of the time and energy that they give. Alternatively, a volunteer having a slow year might even pick up an extra shift after seeing their numbers.

With the right management and communication tools pulling information directly from a well-managed database, it’s easy to personalize your engagement with volunteers and express your gratitude with gestures both big and small.

4. Streamline the volunteer application process. 

Most nonprofits, particularly larger ones that require more comprehensive management and database tools, ask their prospective volunteers to complete an application or provide additional information or materials before getting started.

When developing your online application or screening questionnaire, customize the fields to provide you with the most useful information possible. You’ll likely want to ask for:

  • Contact information and location
  • Current employment or employment history
  • Any special skills, certifications, or relevant interests
  • Scheduling information, like typical availability
  • History of engagement with your organization or others
  • Ability to pass a background check
  • T-shirt size

The ability to immediately segment your volunteers into appropriate lists is invaluable for starting their engagement off on the right foot. For example, your new volunteers who’ve told you that they’re only available to help out on weekends shouldn’t be flooded with invitations for weeknight projects.

Similarly, this data also allows you to more fully personalize your communications as your relationships deepen. Tailor your messages to volunteers based on their interests and skills as opportunities emerge for them to shine.

5. Use other technology tools to boost volunteer engagement.

Finally, your volunteer program’s technology should support any new or additional opportunities you provide your supporters to get involved with your work.

This includes having more organized management and registration tools on your site, but it’s generally a smart move to make the most of whatever platforms you use when developing new volunteer opportunities. Consider these ideas:

  • Invite key volunteers and members to share input and help plan events. Management platforms that feature online communities, message boards, and collaborative work tools are perfect for inviting your most dedicated supporters to get more deeply involved.
  • Promote corporate philanthropy and volunteer grant programs. Employers will often financially match the time that their employees spend volunteering. Automated tools integrated into your database can streamline the entire process and provide a sizable revenue boost. 
  • Offer unique training and educational opportunities. Management platforms and online communities make it easy to share eLearning programming, webinars, and video training courses with volunteers. Investing time and energy into volunteer development perks can generate a huge increase in your long-term retention rate.

If you find yourself wondering how your specific technology tools can support your efforts to more fully engage your community of volunteers, consider consulting a nonprofit technology specialist. These experts know how to take a critical look at your technology stack and the strategies it’s supporting. From there, they can give you tailored recommendations for improvements that will lead to sustained success for you and your volunteers.  

The right technology can help you identify the right volunteers for the job, build a strong culture of volunteer engagement within your program, and reinforce the value of volunteering for everyone involved. 

While not all nonprofits have access to the same technology resources, expert guidance and a little creativity can go a long way to ensure your volunteers stay engaged and feel appreciated. Plus, their generously donated time will have a bigger impact than ever before as you work to integrate and unify all your engagement and technology strategies.

Guest Contributer

Written by Guest Contributer

This article was written by a VolunteerMatch Guest Contributor.