Whether it has one committed volunteer or dozens, an organization must invest time and thought to ensure these individuals remain happy and hard at work. Here are some suggestions for maintaining a strong volunteer program:
Actively recruit volunteers. The number one difference between people who volunteer and people who don’t is that the volunteers were asked to help. Very few people will take the initiative to track down volunteer opportunities on their own, but many will participate if asked to perform a concrete task to support a cause they believe in.
Don’t focus exclusively on people with time on their hands. There is an old saying that if you want something done, ask a busy woman. This is true of volunteering as well. Although many men and retirees donate time, the typical American volunteer is actually a woman in her 30s or 40s who works full time. Because people receive a variety of benefits from volunteering, many will find time to give, even if their schedule is already busy.
Identify a volunteer coordinator. Although most organizations are too small to have a full-time position devoted to volunteer management, it is useful to assign someone to be responsible for scheduling, training, and supporting volunteers. This helps to ensure volunteers don’t fall through the cracks and that they have someone to turn to with questions, etc.
Train your new volunteers. This includes showing individuals how to do their job, but also providing them with information about the organization, giving them a tour, and introducing them to staff and other volunteers. In addition to making them better workers, this orientation will help them that they are a valuable part of the organization.
Be respectful of volunteers’ time. The fastest way to lose a new volunteer is to not use their time well. Be prepared to promptly provide them with work and all necessary supplies when they arrive for their volunteer shift. If there is no work to do, call in advance to prevent a needless trip and make sure to generate an meaningful task for their next scheduled shift.
Provide recognition. Many organizations have an annual event to thank volunteers, but recognition also involves remembering to address volunteers by name and thank them for individual tasks on a day-to-day basis. This kind of appreciation often means more than formal efforts.