People who give of their time, skills and resources as a nonprofit volunteer provide invaluable resources to nonprofit organizations. Now is a great time to show your appreciation for your nonprofit volunteers during National Volunteer Week.
National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world. Each year, we shine a light on the people and causes that inspire us to serve, recognizing and thanking volunteers who lend their time, talent and voice to make a difference in their communities. (Points of Light https://www.pointsoflight.org/nvw/)
The actual value of the time spent by volunteers working in a nonprofit is not reported on IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ, so the exact economic impact of nonprofit volunteerism is unknown. However, a report on San Luis Obispo County nonprofits estimated volunteers provide more than 627,274 service hours annually, and that could be a very low estimate (Beacon Economics).
Additionally, volunteers help fill the gap for vital professional services when budgets are tight and more assistance is needed. Just as in for-profit companies, salaries are usually the highest line item in a nonprofit’s budget. Most nonprofits can’t afford to hire the amount of staff needed to adequately meet operational demands. In addition, some businesses may not have staff at all and depend solely on volunteer help to function. Being consistently short-staffed and overworked can cause burnout, resulting in employees leaving to seek work elsewhere. Hiring and retaining volunteers thus becomes a crucial component in building a successful nonprofit.
Here are a few tips to help nonprofits find and keep the essential volunteers they need.
- Plan for volunteers before you reach out: There are endless reasons why a person chooses to volunteer. Some want to give back to the community, develop new skills or stay connected with others. Whatever the reason, plan for your volunteer the same way you plan for other staffing. Create a job description to clarify the needs of the organization. This helps create realistic expectations for the volunteer as well as for the organization. However, be flexible as a volunteer may not want to do all of the tasks you’ve outlined, or you might get a person with a totally different but essential skill set that you hadn’t anticipated.
- Prepare to make a good first impression: Let everyone know when a new volunteer is coming so they can give him or her a warm welcome and the volunteer knows that their service is appreciated. When setting the first appointment, be clear if you expect the person to start helping immediately or if this is just an initial interview. Have the volunteer application and information on the nonprofit ready to share with each applicant. Bringing in a volunteer is similar to bringing on a regular staff member—that is, treat everyone the same. For instance, if a background check is required for employees, then it should be required for volunteers as well.
- Provide an onboarding training session: Having a first day onboarding session with a new volunteer is imperative to orient the person to the organization and for you to get to know them better. Be welcoming and positive so the person feels relaxed. Create a designated place to store belongings and to work, and provide and review information in your Volunteer Handbook together.
These few tips are just the start for working with volunteers, but getting off to a good start sets the tone for a successful relationship. To get more tips on working with volunteers, join Spokes for the following April workshops:
- Preparing Your Agency for Volunteers, Tuesday, April 16, 9-10:30 a.m.
- Keys to Keeping Quality volunteers: Volunteer Retention and Motivation, Tuesday April 23, 9-10:30 am.
See information below in the newsletter for more information on the workshops.
For Spokes members, go to your Online Resources Library in your membership area to find multiple resources for volunteer recruitment, management, and retention.
2013 Central Coast Economic Forecast, Beacon Economics. www.Beaconecon.com
Top 10 Strategies for Retaining Volunteers that Actually Work: https://www.givegab.com/blog/top-10-strategies-for-retaining-volunteers-that-actually-work/
What to include in a Volunteer Handbook: http://www.minnesotanonprofits.org/nonprofit-resources/management-hr/volunteer-management/volunteer-handbook