How well do you know your volunteers? How well do you NEED to know them? After all, we’re very busy people working at nonprofits, and isn’t it more important to run our events without a hitch and come in under budget than to be buddy-buddy with volunteers?
Think about it this way: Your volunteers are the people who care so much about what you do, they have actively sought you out so they can spend their free time, skills and sweat to do work for you – for free. What can be more important than that?
How Does It Help?
Getting to know your volunteers on a deeper level can have a number of benefits for your volunteer program and organization as a whole: when you speak to aspects of your volunteers’ personality and their real lives, you’ll see an increase in engagement and excitement. People will stick around longer and be more willing to take on leadership roles.
Also, when you have a stronger relationship with your volunteers, that connection becomes more valuable and meaningful for YOU, as well, and for your staff members who join you. When your volunteers become special, individual people, you’ll have even more fun, and be even more passionate about supporting them.
When Does It Help?
Knowing more about what makes your volunteers tick will be useful in a whole bunch of situations, such as designing new opportunities to appeal to other great volunteers, or coming up with fun, affordable appreciation events and gifts that your volunteers will actually like.
When you have a real relationship with a volunteer, you’ll be able to determine the best path forward to move them into a leadership role, or to expand how they support the organization by asking them for donations of money and goods, in addition to time.
And the more you’re connected to your volunteers, the easier it is to get connected to their friends and family, thus expanding your community of supporters!
What Do You Do Now?
So if you’re convinced, how do you actually go about getting to know your volunteers on a deeper level? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Ask them to fill out a survey (keep it simple and not too invasive!)
Ask them for feedback after an event, whether over email or via VolunteerMatch’s reviews feature.
Spend time with them! Have actual conversations with them! Ask them questions about their lives! Smile at them!
Talk to your fellow staff members, and foster a culture in your organization of sharing experiences and notes about volunteers, so everyone can learn from each other how best to relate to your supporters.
How do you get to know your volunteers better? Share your ideas and strategies below!
Shari led Online Marketing and Communications at VolunteerMatch from 2010-2015. After working with nonprofits for 9 years, she moved over to the corporate sector and is now leading Inbound Marketing for a tech company in San Francisco.