Volunteers are considered the backbone of communities, providing a platform for people of all ages and backgrounds to give back to events and causes that they are passionate about.
As social beings, volunteering is a prime example of humanity at its best, fulfilling the desire that many of us have to create and engage with meaningful experiences.
Pre coronavirus, global estimates place the number of volunteers worldwide at 970 million equating to around $1.348 trillion or 2.4% of the entire global economy.
Unfortunately, many organizations take their volunteers for granted. Yes, they appreciate them but how do they do to show their appreciation? Much like any healthy relationship, your relationship with your volunteers should be a two-way street. Creating an engaging volunteer management program is the key to volunteer retention: ensuring happy volunteers who not only enjoy their experience but are more likely to sing your praises and encourage their friends, family and colleagues to follow suit.
The team at Rosterfy have pulled together our top five volunteer engagement ideas to ensure a robust and strategic volunteer management program for many years to come.
Volunteer Engagement Idea #1: Understand the motivations of your volunteers.
Taking the time to better understand the motivations of your volunteers goes a long way in engaging volunteers.
Volunteers choose to volunteer for multiple reasons including:
- Giving back to a community and/or cause they are passionate about
- Wanting to be part of an event that excites them
- Looking to meet new people and socialise
- Hoping to learn new skills
- Wanting to build up their experience for their resume
- Building their networks within a certain field or organisation
How do I connect with volunteers to understand their motivations?
While the best way to understand these motivations is to get on the phone and to talk to your volunteers, you could consider including some ‘get to know you’ questions on your registration form or running a survey to help you build more solid profiles for your volunteers.
Understanding the motivations of your volunteers enables you to provide unique experiences that appeal to your volunteers and enhance their experience with your organization. It’s these types of experiences that ensure engagement with your volunteers, which is integral to building a robust volunteer program.
Volunteer Engagement Idea #2: Communicate, communicate and communicate.
How do you effectively engage volunteers?
Communication remains the best way to engage your volunteers. We work alongside some of the biggest workforce programs worldwide and the number one tip that we continue to hear from clients is the importance of communication.
Technology has allowed us to provide new methods for communication with emails, SMS, portal notifications and social media, all fantastic mediums to share content, provide updates and ensure that your volunteers feel included and a part of your team.
Understanding that each volunteer will have their own preference for receiving communications, it is important to embrace a number of different communications mediums to ensure maximum cut through.
A great way to streamline communications is through a volunteer management digital solution. If you’d like to learn more about how Rosterfy can help you streamline your volunteer management and better engage with your volunteers through communication, click here.
Volunteer engagement activities
Some volunteer programs open their registration as often as one year before their event or shifts commence. You can’t expect to send one welcome email when someone registers and then forget about them until you need something.
There are so many creative ways to engage volunteers through communications. Think more broadly about the types of communications you could send. We would suggest at a minimum of one piece of communication per month.
Some great ideas for engaging communications include:
- Video message from CEO. Make your volunteers feel special with a pre-recorded welcome from your CEO outlining the important role volunteers will play in achieving your organizational mission.
- Volunteer newsletter. Consider developing a volunteer newsletter featuring important updates, profiles for staff and features on your event and fundraising targets.
- Volunteer feature. How do you keep volunteers involved? Why not run a feature on a volunteer each month with a Q&A style interview that explains why they’re volunteering and what they’re hoping to achieve.
- Invitation to follow socials. Engage with your volunteers through your social channels encouraging them to like and share your content. This is not only engaging for volunteers but also helps to further promote your brand.
- Milestone communications. Happy birthday and anniversary emails to celebrate your volunteers.
- Celebrate your volunteers. Congratulatory emails once key milestones are achieved.
How to keep your volunteers. Harnessing the power of automations.
We understand it. You’re not a superhero! You can send multiple personalized communications every time someone completes or celebrates a milestone.
One of the best ways to ensure engagement is to embrace a volunteer management software solution, which allows you to set up automated workflows that send communications once certain milestones are achieved or on a certain date.
This is a great way to auto schedule communications including:
- Welcome email
- Shift applications open
- Confirmation of shift
- Training instructions & reminders
- Volunteer briefs
- Reward & recognition instructions
- Thank you emails
- Auto generated certificates for completing training and inductions
Volunteer Engagement Idea #3: Training & Inductions.
Have you been asking your team, how do we connect with volunteers virtually? Training is a great way to engage with your volunteers within the virtual domain. By taking the time to invest in your volunteers through training and inductions you are actively engaging with your volunteers and creating unique experiences that add value beyond the act of donating their time.
In Volunteering Australia’s Guide to Training Volunteers, they state that training not only strengthens volunteer competency but also motivates volunteers by helping them to achieve and maintain satisfaction in their roles.
A confident and empowered volunteer who is well trained will be more likely to continue to volunteer than one who is not confident and feels stressed because they lack competence in the role.
How to treat volunteers. Prioritising volunteer inductions!
First impressions count so make sure you present yourself as professional. Make inductions a part of your onboarding process, putting in place screening measures to ensure that your organization and your volunteer community remain safe.
When you spend the time properly onboarding your volunteers, you are making the effort to engage with them. Just like when you start a new job, volunteers deserve to be properly inducted and given the skills and knowledge to do their job properly.
It’s these first impressions that see volunteers remain with an organization for years to come and this loyalty will ultimately assist in growing your volunteer community.
How to engage volunteers. Training & Upskilling.
Engaging with your volunteers through training is a great way to connect with your volunteers. Remembering that volunteers choose to volunteer for different reasons, training can be a great way to provide a value-added experience that volunteers can take with them long after their shift concludes.
The other benefit of training? Your volunteers are armed with the knowledge to perform their role with confidence and that makes for a better experience for all.
If you’re keen to learn more about how training can be used to enhance your engagement, take a look at Rosterfy’s training functionality.
Volunteer Engagement Idea #4: Create a Reward & Recognition Program
How to motivate your volunteers. Gamify your volunteer program.
One way you can engage and recognize your loyal volunteers is through the introduction of a reward and recognition program. In a nutshell, a reward and recognition program is a means to gamify your volunteer management program, where volunteers are able to redeem rewards in exchange for hours or milestones achieved.
Making your volunteer management program fun and exciting is a great way to better engage your volunteers. From merchandise to special events, discounted event tickets and VIP access, there are so many great ways you can incentivise your volunteers to get involved.
Consider a corporate partner
We get that not every organization has the money or resources to execute a reward and recognition program. A great way to combat this is to bring on a corporate partner or sponsor who can help contribute an inventory of rewards to help engage your volunteers to get involved.
Volunteer Engagement Idea #5: Embrace Technology
One of the best ways to keep your volunteers engaged is through technology. Technology is an intrinsic part of everyday life and for many organizations, it has helped to bridge the gap between those looking to volunteer and organizations looking for volunteers.
To make volunteering engaging you need to make it simple and the easiest way to do this is through technology. All of the tips mentioned above have the ability to be powered by technology and better still, if you select the right volunteer management software solution, this can largely be done via automation technology.
Technology allows for flexibility. Volunteers can register when they want, whether they are at home or out and about. It allows for personalized and consistent communications that ensure that volunteers are engaged from start to finish and it allows you to offer some great additions to your program including reward and recognition and training.
We hope you enjoyed our top volunteer engagement ideas. If you’d like to learn more about how Rosterfy can help you better engage with your volunteers through a volunteer management solution, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.