Guest post by Rebecca Jee
A first year University student, a stay at home parent, and a 68-year-old retiree walk into your office.
No, it’s not the beginning of a bad joke. These are the people who could be your next volunteers. But which one of them will be the right volunteer for your organization?
As a volunteer manager, you have many job responsibilities, and likely limited time. So it’s important to engage the right people and get the most out of the volunteering experience both for you and the volunteer. If you can retain these key volunteers, it will mean you spend less time on training and recruiting, and more time working with them to achieve your important goals.
Get to know them
Although you might want to accept the offer of every person who is willing to get involved, taking some time to interview them — whether formally, informally, alone or in a group — will help you engage those who are the best fit for your organisation, and help flag any people who might be unsuitable before they get too far into the process.
Ask yourself things like:
- What mix of skills do they bring to the table?
- How much time do they have available?
- Why do they want to volunteer for you?
- Do their values align with your organization’s values?
- What do they hope to get out of the experience?
Make sure you clearly spell out what the expectations are in terms of work, the culture of your organization, and the commitment you require from your volunteers so that everyone knows where they stand from the outset. You may require your volunteers to sign an agreement that sets out these expectations and standards; be sure to give your volunteers a copy of this to keep. Also, remember to inform your volunteers if they are required to undergo police checks or the necessary working with children checks for your area.
Engage them well
Every volunteering situation will be different. You might be recruiting someone to help out in the office, getting people working together on a project, or deploying individuals to engage with the community on your organization’s behalf.
You will learn fairly quickly who your most reliable and enthusiastic volunteers are. Depending on the type of work you have for them to do, you may be able to put your key volunteers in more of a leadership role within a team, or give them greater responsibility. These are the people you can train and trust to get the job done without as much management. They can also help you develop the skills of other volunteers who are less confident or capable.
Keep in touch
Encourage feedback and communication from your volunteers. You can gain valuable knowledge from them about their experience volunteering for you and how your organization is perceived by the community. They will also feel valued and part of your organization as a whole.
72% of people who volunteer only volunteer for one organization, so if you can effectively engage someone, it’s likely they will stay loyal. If the volunteering experience is a positive one, your volunteers will become your champions, and will return to volunteer again. Not only will they help you achieve your goals, they will promote your organization because they are passionate about what you do and their part in it.
So don’t just gather a group of random people with free time. Build an amazing team of the right volunteers and understanding their needs will help you achieve your organization’s goals.
About the author:
Rebecca Jee is a writer for Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. As a freelance writer, editor, graphic designer, photographer, musician, crafter, food consultant, massage therapist – you name it, she’s done it all. She loves a creative challenge and has a rock-solid background in working for not-for-profit organizations. She created a website and diary called Everyday Gratitude to encourage others to reflect on what they’re thankful for. Follow her company on Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook.