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6 min read

5 Data-Driven Volunteer Management Strategies for Nonprofits

May 17, 2024

A woman analyzing volunteer data on her laptop.

Your nonprofit likely collects data about its donors, but what about your volunteers? Volunteers, although often overlooked, are the backbone of your organization. They work hands-on with your beneficiaries, ensure events run smoothly, and advocate for your cause.

Just as you can fuel your fundraising efforts with data, you can also better manage and retain volunteers using dedicated data-driven volunteer management strategies. In this guide, we’ll review tips for how you can incorporate data into your volunteer management process to better understand and engage your volunteer base.

1. Clean up your volunteer data.

For data to be useful, you first have to make sure it’s clean. Data hygiene or cleanliness refers to the process of keeping your database updated and error-free. When you implement data hygiene procedures, you can be confident you’re making volunteer management decisions based on accurate information.

Start by auditing the volunteer data you already have. Determine which data points you’ve collected in the past so you can identify any gaps in your volunteer information. You should also note any data entry errors or inaccuracies so you can resolve these issues.

With your existing data squared away, consider expanding your knowledge of your volunteer base by conducting a data append. AlumniFinder defines a data append as “supplementing your database with information from third-party sources.” By doing so, you’ll have a more complete picture of who your volunteers are and how you can best engage them.

The types of data you may append include:

  • Contact information
  • Demographics
  • Wealth and philanthropic data
  • Lifestyle information

Types of data nonprofits may append about their volunteers, as listed in the text below.

Let’s say you’re looking to run a text marketing campaign but only have phone numbers for 40% of your volunteer base. With a data append, you can source volunteer phone numbers and add them to your database, allowing you to promote upcoming volunteer opportunities and communicate with volunteers via text message.

2. Segment your volunteers.

Once you have clean, accurate data about your volunteers, segment them into groups within your database. These segments will allow you to send targeted, personalized messages to your volunteers that highlight the most relevant opportunities.

Common ways to segment volunteers include grouping by:

  • Skills and expertise. If you’re looking to provide skills-based volunteer opportunities, grouping your volunteers by expertise will be especially helpful. For instance, you may create segments for volunteers with experience in marketing, financial management, graphic design, or technical support, depending on which projects you need assistance with.
  • Interests. Organizations with many different programs, activities, or mission focus areas may segment their volunteers by interest to connect them with engaging volunteer opportunities. The CDC Foundation, for example, may segment volunteers based on whether they’re interested in supporting their health equity, climate change, global health security, or community health efforts.
  • Availability. When they sign up to help your organization, ask volunteers whether they’re typically available on weekdays, evenings, weekends, or specific times of the year, and group them accordingly. You may also ask whether they’d like to support your nonprofit through in-person or online volunteering.
  • Demographics. Lastly, you may group volunteers by demographics, such as age or location, so you can help them form connections with those their age or find volunteer opportunities in their local area.

Before you create your segments, review your organization’s broader goals and volunteer initiatives to determine how to best group your volunteers. For instance, if you’re looking to scale up your event volunteer team, you may prioritize segmenting volunteers by relevant skills, such as marketing and technical support, so you can reach out to those who can best assist with your events.

3. Customize communications based on data.

Use the segments you’ve created to personalize your volunteer communications and introduce individuals to relevant, exciting opportunities. Sending your volunteers messages and opportunities that cater to their interests shows that you care about them as individuals and will encourage them to continue volunteering with your organization. 

For example, you may group volunteers by age and notice that you have a large Gen Z population amongst your volunteer base. To engage these volunteers, use social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to promote upcoming volunteer outings, and consider organizing social events that allow them to bond with other young volunteers over their shared interest in your cause. 

After your volunteers lend their support, customize your appreciation messages to them as well. Instead of sending generic thank-you messages, address volunteers by name and update them on the impact of their individual contributions. To facilitate this level of personalization, make sure to store information about each volunteer’s involvement in your database.

4. Track volunteer metrics.

The key to assessing the effectiveness of your volunteer program and management efforts is to track volunteer metrics. Using data allows you to measure your volunteers’ impact and identify any room for improvement on your organization’s part.

Key volunteer metrics you may track include:

  • Volunteer hours per individual and project
  • Volunteer participation rate, or the percentage of engaged volunteers
  • Volunteer retention rate, or the percentage of volunteers who return after their first volunteer experience
  • Specific impact metrics, such as dollar amount raised, tasks completed, number of beneficiaries helped, or events organized

To keep track of these figures, consider investing in a volunteer-specific management system. Here, you can use built-in features geared toward volunteer management and quickly analyze volunteer data to guide your decision-making.

Then, you can share individual metrics with your volunteers to demonstrate their impact and inspire them to keep contributing. You may also identify trends in your volunteer data that empower you to improve the volunteer experience.

5. Collect feedback.

In addition to quantitative metrics, it’s important to gain qualitative insights into volunteers’ experiences. Collect direct feedback from your volunteers to better understand their preferences and engage them. eCardWidget’s volunteer retention guide recommends asking the following questions in volunteer surveys or interviews:

  • What types of volunteer activities are you most interested in?
  • How would you rate your latest volunteer experience?
  • How likely are you to sign up for another volunteer opportunity?
  • What improvements, if any, would you like to see in our volunteer program?
  • Are there any other roles or opportunities within our nonprofit that you’re interested in?

Analyze your volunteers’ responses, and implement any feasible suggestions. Then, let your volunteers know you’ve incorporated their feedback to demonstrate your commitment to providing an excellent volunteer experience.

With a data-backed volunteer management approach, you can better understand your volunteers, offer them personalized experiences, and retain their support. As a result, you’ll be able to help more beneficiaries and execute your mission more efficiently.

Guest Contributer

Written by Guest Contributer

This article was written by a VolunteerMatch Guest Contributor.