If you’re like most associations and chambers of commerce, you likely rely on volunteers quite heavily. But the (never-ending) process of finding – and keeping – volunteers is certainly a challenge, which is why it’s crucial to put some serious thought into your volunteer management style.
In fact, when working with volunteers, to ensure long-term success for both you and the volunteer, we highly recommend asking yourself the following four questions:
1. Am I tapping into their particular skill set?
Most volunteers are pretty well-rounded: They can help out wherever needed, whether that’s assisting with event registration or serving as a table host at your quarterly luncheon. But if you can actually tap into your volunteers’ unique skill sets, not only will they likely do a better job, but they’ll probably enjoy it more too, boosting the likelihood they’ll volunteer again in the future.
Ask your existing volunteers, “In a perfect world, if you could do anything volunteer-wise with [Organization Name], what would that be?” They might say photography. Or writing. Or social media. You might even uncover some skills you didn’t even know your members had. Leverage those!
2. Did I ask if they knew anyone else who might be interested in volunteering?
Like we mentioned earlier, volunteer recruitment is tough, so start with the resources you have: your existing volunteers. Ask each and every one of them – individually, preferably – if they know of anyone else who might be interested in volunteering.
Why the need for a one-on-one conversation? Well, they’ll view that more as you asking them directly for help, and they’ll want to come through for you (if they can).
Plus, having your volunteers talk to their network about their personal experience is MUCH more compelling than a standard “call for volunteers” message.
3. Am I relying on this volunteer too much?
When you’re in a pinch for volunteers, it can be tempting to just go back to the same volunteers time and time again. After all, they always say yes, and they always do a great job.
But we highly recommend being mindful of their involvement – and behavior. If they’ve been doing a lot lately and they seem, overall, less enthusiastic, they may be experiencing volunteer burnout.
Give that volunteer a little time to rest, even if that means putting in some extra work to find a replacement. Once they’ve recovered, they’ll likely want to return. But push them too hard, and they may quit volunteering altogether.
4. Did I say thank you?
This is so, so, SO important for volunteer retention. Regardless of the size of the task, it’s crucial that you thank your volunteers and let them know how much you genuinely appreciate their help.
Try and go above and beyond with your thank you, if possible. If you thanked them in person, thank them again via email. Or, give them a shoutout on social media (and tag them if you can). Multiple thank yous will likely come as a surprise, and your volunteers may start to think, “Wow, I really had an impact here! They recognized me, and I’d love to help out again.”
Volunteer management really shouldn’t be done off the cuff. There needs to be a system in place, a strategy in place, and genuine thought behind every action you take (your interaction with volunteers, how you divvy up the work, etc.).
For a few best practices – regarding volunteer recruitment, onboarding, AND retention – check out our free guide below!