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8 tips for communication in the workplace that will help your volunteer organization thrive
Rosterfy takes a look at the importance of communicating with volunteers highlighting 8 tips for effective communication to strengthen volunteer engagement & retention.
Whether it be a sports team, marriage, workplace or event, we often hear that communication is the key to success.
Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done. Communication in the workplace takes effort, good policies, tools and leaders who practice what they preach. Whether your organization is made up of staff, volunteers or a combination of both, prioritizing effective workplace communication can help your volunteer organization thrive.
From group meetings and social gatherings, digital communication channels, feedback surveys, face-to-face talks and email blasts, there are limitless ways to communicate with volunteers, depending on the message that needs to be delivered.
In this article, we’ll cover why it is important to communicate with volunteers, and highlight 8 tips for effective communication to strengthen volunteer engagement and retention.
1. Get to know your volunteers
Understanding the motivations, skills, and interests of your volunteers will help you match them into roles that suit them and ensure you see them as more than just a number.
Getting to know your volunteers can start at the very beginning. In your sign-up form, consider asking questions such as: What motivated you to volunteer with us? What do you hope to gain from the volunteer experience? What skills or interests do you have?
During the onboarding session, you could continue getting to know your volunteers by asking everyone to introduce themselves and to talk a little more about their reasons for volunteering. Not only will it be a nice icebreaker, you might learn more information that you can use to ensure both parties get the most out of the volunteer experience. During this time, you could also introduce yourself, explain your role, talk a little about the company culture, and share how you first got involved with the organization. This helps build trust and relationships.
A great tip is to provide a contact person that volunteers can get in touch with if they have any questions or concerns. Provide their name, a phone number and email address. It also helps to provide an expected timeframe for replies, (i.e. we endeavor to respond to all inquiries within 48 hours) and stick to it.
2. Host team meetings and social events
Many volunteers hope to gain some social engagement through volunteering. While this is possible while working, it’s much easier to get to know each other and socialize away from the job.
Consider organizing regular in-person team meetings (i.e. fortnightly or monthly) where you can share important information about the organization, catch up with volunteers informally, and share impact updates, special mentions or rewards. Icebreaker questions can lighten the mood and bring some fun to every meeting, so consider starting with a simple game before diving into your agenda. You could even use the meetings to run short trainings on key topics such as first aid, leadership or OH&S.
Don’t forget to also thank volunteers by organizing social events. These could be regular thank you events such as BBQ’s or dinners, or one-off celebrations such as Christmas parties or fundraising events. These events should not focus on work, but rather give everyone the chance to relax, let their hair down, and encourage employee engagement and team bonding. Strong teams are more likely to support each other, be honest and work together to get the job done!
3. Use different methods of communication
With so many different ways to get your message across, it’s worth thinking about which channel is best to deliver your message.
Sticking up a poster on the notice board at the office is only useful if all your volunteers come on site regularly. The below channels are considered best practice for effective communication. You may consider using them to guide your volunteer communications strategy:
- An SMS or phone call: For urgent messages
- Email: Good for sending out invites, or monthly newsletters
- Social media: For public-facing messages and updates
- Online surveys: To collect feedback anonymously
- Internal comms channel (such as Slack or Teams): For two-way communication, gathering feedback, non-public topics or setting up meetings
- Face-to-face: Sensitive or personal topics
- Group meetings: for general company updates, public recognition and open forums
Remember to take into consideration that not everyone will use every channel. Everyone has a different communication style. So to ensure effective communication with volunteers, always have additional ways to share critical information.
4. Talk face-to-face
If you’ve ever been confused by the tone of a text message or email, you’ll know how easy it is for messages to be misconstrued. So when you need to communicate about a sensitive or important topic, make the effort to talk face-to-face when you can. Face-to-face communication also means that non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions can help deliver the message.
Arrange a time to meet in a quiet place. It's always a good idea to give the other person an idea of what you want to discuss so they can be prepared. If you have virtual volunteers, take the time to set up a video call, or at least a phone call.
5. Prioritize two-way communication
Communication without the opportunity for two-way communication is actually just information sharing. While there may be some occasions where that’s the intention, most communication in the workplace is two-way. Two-way communication offers volunteers a chance to voice their opinions and ideas, which shows them they are respected. It can also drive collaboration, sharing of ideas, employee engagement, closer teamwork and increased trust. At the end of the day, volunteers are the ones getting out there in the community, hearing stories from clients and customers, and delivering programs. So listening to their feedback is critical to improving both your volunteer program and overall impact.
When you have something important to share with your volunteers, think about the best way to do it that encourages two-way communication. What do they need to know? What is the best way to encourage and collect a response? How would they be most comfortable sharing their opinion, in a public or private forum?
It might be as simple as walking around and asking questions.
Or it might be sharing updates on a group chat channel.
Perhaps you want to put together a survey to collect responses.
Whatever the channel you choose, always prioritize two-way communication.
6. Mind your non-verbal communication
Emotions, culture, body language and tone of voice can all influence the way a message is received, making communication a complex process. So when you’re communicating in person, make sure you are aware of your non-verbal communication.
Smiling, arms open, and a casual seated position will make the other person feel at ease. While standing, arms crossed in front of your body with a concerned look on your face will make the person feel anxious.
Similarly, if you are communicating online, communication should be courteous and respectful, regardless of medium. It’s important to pay extra attention to your tone of voice, punctuation, use of capitals and response time as it’s easier for messages to get misconstrued without the additional cues.
It’s also important to consider the opinions and beliefs of others, in order to avoid causing any unintentional offense. Certain cultures are more prone to direct communication, while others are more indirect communicators. Focus on communicating calmly and concisely, speak slowly and clearly and always ask if anyone has any questions. This will help avoid any confusion down the track.
Rosterfy knows that volunteer management programs are as diverse as they are different. Volunteers come from all walks of life, which is why we’ve created simple and unique multi language options. Choose from nine different language options, and the volunteer will read the registration form, volunteer portals and additional communications via SMS and email in their chosen language.
7. Create an FAQ document
New volunteers will often come with a huge range of questions in regards to their role as a volunteer. Save yourself time, and empower them to find the answers themselves by creating a public FAQ page on your website that lists all the most common questions and answers.
This Frequently Asked Questions page can be regularly updated as needed. Just make sure you assign someone to ensure it is always kept up to date. You could add information about job roles, times, policies, locations, expectations, rewards and recognition, physical fitness requirements, uniforms or dress codes, and training programs.
This document will ensure everyone is on the same page, and can be the go-to resource for new volunteers.
8. Say thank you
Volunteers give up their time to help your cause, so the least you can do is thank them! Thanking volunteers is such an effective communication tool, but unfortunately too often, showing appreciation gets lumped in the ‘too hard basket’. With volunteers becoming more and more selective about the organizations that they choose to volunteer with, organizations that don’t choose to prioritize appreciation will likely lose their volunteers to organizations that do.
The more creative and sincere your thank you’s are, the better they will be received.
Consider setting up a regular thank you email that breaks down the impact volunteers are having on the people who use your services.
It might be something like ‘In June, thanks to our 120 volunteers, we were able to keep 3000 people fed.’ or you might want to call out individual stories from inspiring volunteers who went above and beyond by selecting a Volunteer of the Month.
Reward and recognition programs are another great way to show your appreciation. Rosterfy's reward and recognition functionality allows you to incentivize volunteering through the use of rewards, which can be redeemed in exchange for hours or shifts volunteered.
From merchandise and apparel, through to event tickets and once in a lifetime opportunities, gamifying your volunteer management program is a great way to engage and retain your volunteers.
Hopefully these tips will help improve effective communication in volunteer organizations.
The best way to ensure consistent effective communication in the workplace is by creating a volunteer management guide that everyone can follow.
A volunteer management program encompasses all the steps and communication elements that a non profit organization takes to recruit, track, engage, recognize and retain volunteers. This can help create operational efficiencies and bring everyone onto the same page, while creating a positive experience for your volunteers, so they will return year after year.
Rosterfy’s purpose-built workforce management software can handle all aspects of volunteer management and communication in the workplace. Our proven end to end technology allows charities, events and non profit organizations to recruit, register, screen, train, manage and report with ease, replacing manual processes with automations to better engage and retain your volunteers.
Alternatively, learn about some of the key documents that can be used to deliver effective volunteer communication within your organization: