Volunteers are an essential element for many organisations to achieve their mission. Whether it’s assisting in events, running programs or providing admin relief – your organisation would not be where it is today without them.
Properly managing your volunteers is critical to the success of your volunteer program. If it’s: too hard to volunteer, recognition is lacking, or tasks for volunteers are trivial; supporters will simply find another cause to donate their time to, although many simply give up trying to help at all.
Here are my 4 recommendations for creating a positive and effective volunteer management within your database.
1. Use your current database! Track volunteer activities in your current database.
You probably already have a database that tracks your donors and fundraising. I would encourage you to get the most out of your database by also tracking your volunteers in there as well.
By tracking volunteer activities within your database, you’ll have the ability to view what committee a volunteer is on, what mailings they receive, and information on how they engage with your organisation.
Often your volunteers are also donors. By keeping everyone in a single database this will help you decrease duplicates, create a well-rounded profile for all your supporters, and enable everyone in your organisation access to that information; never miss an opportunity to thank them for all that they do for your organisation.
Tip: Don’t simply track that they are a volunteer, track: if they are active or inactive volunteers, if they have their required training/certifications, or have the essential background checks required to work with children. Whatever the requirements are for your organisation, track all the details in one place. It’ll make audits ‘easy as!’
2. Make it easy for your supporters to sign up as volunteers
Let volunteering be easy! Have your volunteer sign up form be available online for potential volunteers.
Online forms go directly into the database (reducing admin time for data entry) and you can ask the important details you need: availability, interests and qualifications of a volunteer within their profile.
Tip: If you have several volunteers, consider setting up online forms allowing your volunteers to submit their volunteer hours online as well. This will help track their contributions and make recognition of hours donated much easier. You can also consider listing your volunteer opportunities online for people to sign up for specific events via an eStore or Cart website.
3. Show your volunteers the opportunities available to them
Your organisation likely has standard volunteer tasks and times it needs volunteers for. So be specific about volunteer times when you ask your volunteers their availability & ensure your database has fields to store this information.
Also have options for volunteers to select areas of interest, qualifications they have, and specific events or projects they’d like to assist with. Not only will volunteers indicate and tell you which activities they’d be good at, they can also see the variety of ways they can continue supporting your cause.
Tip: Nothing makes people feel their time is being appreciated more than helping them find something they are interested in and can take ownership of; engaged volunteers make amazing things happen. You never know unless you ask and you’ll never remember what they said if you don’t save it to their profile.
4. Always recognise and show your volunteers how much they’re appreciated
Volunteers are giving up their time. Sometimes that is more valuable than those giving money. Track your volunteer’s hours just as you would a gift from a donor.
Show them they’re appreciated by creating name tags and indicating how long they’ve been a volunteer. This little gesture makes them feel appreciated and can help full time staff know who they are and become more familiar with the volunteers. It’s all about continuing to build that relationship.
Always say thank you. Even if it’s an automated thank you email following a service day, an appreciation event, or a reward program for reaching a certain number of volunteer hours. If you’re recording your volunteer’s activity within your database pulling this information makes recognition easier and more meaningful.
Tip: Tracking your volunteer’s activity also allows you to view your overall volunteer hours, number of active volunteers, and how many hours they provide services for you. Which is important when justifying and showing the impact your volunteers have on your mission. Even though it’s worth much more, multiply the number of hours donated by the minimum wage in your community.
What’s that worth in dollars per week, month, or year?
There are many ways to manage volunteers.
Depending on your organisation’s needs it may be simple or more complex, these are the considerations for any volunteer management program: track the qualifications, make it easy to sign-up when they are available, get the word out about what opportunities exist, and then show your appreciation for what they’ve done.
Of all the things they could have been doing, they decided to help you… don’t make them regret that decision.