If your organization, nonprofit or event relies on volunteers, you probably spend a lot of time wondering what is the best way to organize them.
From recruitment through to onboarding, creating roles and responsibilities, task delegation, communication and reward and recognition, there are a lot of steps to running successful volunteer programs.
So we wanted to share our best ideas for organizing volunteers to ensure you get the most out of your volunteers and that they get the most out of their experience in return.
These tips cover the organizational aspect of managing volunteers, so if you’re looking for some guidance on volunteer recruitment, check out our article: Implementing a Volunteer Recruitment Plan.
1. Understand Your Volunteers
Learning about who your volunteers are as individuals is key to organizing volunteers. This will ensure that you can assign tasks that suit each person's skills, personal preferences and physical abilities.
We know that volunteers who are given tasks that allow them to utilize their skills and pick up new ones are the happiest. They feel like they are uniquely qualified to do that job, therefore achieving a sense of pride at being able to make a big impact and contribution to your mission. At the same time, getting people to volunteer is easier when you understand what motivates them. While the overwhelming majority will say they want to give back, there are a number of secondary reasons such as gaining workplace experience, making friends, learning a certain skill, discounted entry or a tangible reward, that motivates volunteers.
The best way to gain a greater understanding of your volunteers is by asking! Utilizing volunteer management software such as Rosterfy can help streamline this process. Ask the right questions during the registration process, such as: What are your skills? What do you hope to get out of volunteering? What are you not interested in doing? Volunteers can also personally sign up for shifts/roles that interest them online through their own volunteer portals.
2. Set Attainable Goals
When it comes to delegating tasks to volunteers, a common mistake volunteer managers make is not setting clear goals.
Giving a task such as ‘unpack these 10 boxes onto the shelves’ means that the volunteer has little input into the task and might not understand the greater goal. Once they finish that task, they’ll sit there awaiting further instructions, probably feeling a little useless.
However, if you instead rephrased the task as ‘we need to make this room functional, easy to navigate and easy to find items’ it reshapes the task as a clear goal. It also gives the volunteer a sense of being able to use their own intuition and judgment to complete the task, beyond just unpacking boxes. They might come up with a handy labeling system, or a better structure that you hadn’t thought of, and at the end of the day, they’ll feel useful.
Setting attainable goals is a great way to make volunteers feel important and useful, while shaping clear volunteer program goals.
3. Leverage Technology
Technology is your best friend when it comes to organizing volunteers. Rosterfy’s purpose-built volunteer workforce management software can handle all the administrative tasks that would normally distract you from the things that are more important.
You can automate rostering, shift allocation and confirmations, any last-minute changes to the venue or timing, training and check-ins and check-outs. It also allows volunteers to take control of their volunteer experience, by selecting shifts that suit them, tracking their volunteer hours, uploading certifications to their volunteer portal, completing training online in their own time, and selecting the rewards they really want.
Use the volunteer database to track the performance of your program from start to finish so you can evaluate success. Rosterfy’s custom reports can give you detailed information on the status of shifts, training updates and check-in rates through to user demographics and documentation.
"One of my favorite features of Rosterfy, and I legitimately call it my administrative assistant, is the reporting feature,” said Lisa Urban, Director of the Community Ambassadors Program, Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV.
4. How To Organize Volunteers Into Diverse Groups
Creating small project teams within your volunteer army is a great way to get more done. But it’s important to make an effort to create diverse groups to increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability and respect for others.
Mix age groups, physical abilities, skills, capabilities and experience to ensure each group is diverse and has an array of different skills. Diversity promotes inclusion and understanding, often a major goal of non profits and volunteer involving organizations.
By giving people that are volunteering with you the life skills and the learnings, they then become better people in the community outside of the task.
5. How to Recruit Volunteers For An Event
If you’re organizing a fundraising event, you may need to seek out additional hands to help the event run smoothly. So if you’re wondering how to recruit volunteers at events, here are a few simple tips to help the recruitment process run smoothly:
- If you’ve run a similar event in the past, review past notes to determine approximate numbers needed.
- Create volunteer job ads specifically for this event. Clearly detail must-haves such as being available on a certain date, time and at a venue. If you need any additional skills, such as tech skills or assembling marquees, make sure you list these in the ad.
- Set up small committees to handle different elements of the event such as entertainment, catering or communications. Here, it’s important to harness potential volunteer skills and match them up to your needs, while maintaining diversity in each team.
- Provide all the information they will need in one clear document, such as where to park, what to wear, what to bring and where to check-in and check-out.
- Utilize Rosterfy’s geo fencing check-in system to automatically check-in volunteers at events as they arrive on site.
If you’re looking for more places to find volunteers, check out our article on the Top 5 Places to Find Volunteers.
6. Hiring A Volunteer Manager
If you have multiple people sharing the responsibility of organizing volunteers, things tend to slip through the cracks. A dedicated volunteer manager (or a volunteer organizer) can help create a more organized volunteer program, and focus on making the program efficient and beneficial for the organization's goals and the volunteers.
But it’s important that they still can share information with the wider team, and using a cloud-based software such as Rosterfy ensures all information is visible across the organization. A dedicated volunteer manager can be the go-to point of contact, conduct training, onboarding and interviews, as well as deal with any issues or problems.
The volunteer manager can also be the one to create a volunteer program, an important step, as we’ll see in the next section.
7. Create A Volunteer Program
A volunteer management program encompasses all the steps that a volunteer-involving organization takes to recruit, track, engage, recognize and retain volunteers. A detailed volunteer management strategy can go into detail on how to organize volunteers, and how to create a positive experience for your volunteers so they will return year after year (and bring some friends with them) to be part of your team.
While it may take some time to set up initially, it can also become a legacy document that can be used for years to come, even as staff and volunteers turn over. Just the act of creating the document will help you learn how to organize volunteers, as you answer questions and create processes and systems you may not have otherwise considered. As you go through the process, it will become clear what are the responsibilities of an organization to a volunteer, and vice versa.
The main thing to remember when writing a volunteer program is that it should detail exactly what your organization hopes to achieve: What are your overall goals, and how can volunteers help you achieve them?
Read more about creating The Ultimate Non Profit Volunteer Management Guide here.
8. Open Communication
Volunteers should have a way to keep in touch with each other, share information and keep up to date with any changes. Setting up a communication channel that allows everyone to stay in touch can really help with organizing volunteers. It also helps create a sense of camaraderie, social engagement and builds strong bonds between volunteers, away from the organization.
While it may seem easiest to stay with email, email threads become clunky and hard to keep up with when there are multiple people replying. Instead, consider setting up a private Facebook group (although not everyone is on Facebook so it may exclude some), a WhatsApp text group, or create a chat channel on a program such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.
9. How Do You Manage and Retain Volunteers?
The best way to manage and retain volunteers is by keeping them engaged. That includes keeping them engaged in the organization's overall goals and mission, their day-to-day tasks and contributions, as well as the volunteer program itself.
When volunteers feel connected to a cause and integral to its success, they are more likely to stay involved for longer. Whereas if a volunteer just comes in, completes a task, and goes home again, they won't have the chance to develop any emotional connection, meaning they are less likely to return.
At the same time, simplifying the management of volunteers can help retention too. If volunteers' emails go unanswered, or they don’t know where to find information such as how to apply for a shift, they may lose interest quickly. This is why volunteer management software is so important, as it streamlines and automates many tasks, empowering volunteers to take control of their own experience.
Be careful not to overwork or overburden volunteers, as this can also leave them feeling stressed and burnt out. It’s important to have enough volunteers to fill all the roles and spread the load evenly.
And of course, always remember to thank volunteers and recognize their valuable contribution, as we’ll see in the next section.
10. Reward and recognition
Thanking volunteers is an important final step when it comes to organizing volunteers. This can be done through an engaging reward and recognition program, designed to give back to your volunteers. Consider ways in which you can create a unique reward for your volunteers including:
- Personalized thank you certificates
- A video message from the CEO detailing the impact of volunteers
- Volunteer of the month or year awards and social media posts
- Pins and/or badges for completing a certain number of volunteers shifts
- Discounted entry to events
- For more ideas, check out these 30 Volunteer Appreciation ideas.
Rosterfy prides itself on our unique Reward and Recognition offering, allowing you to incentivize volunteering through the use of rewards, which can be redeemed in exchange for hours or shifts volunteered. This might be merchandise, apparel, tickets and access to VIP events.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember to celebrate the wins and continually thank your volunteers. Point out when they’ve done a good job and when you’ve reached a certain milestone or goal.
You may even want to organize a thank you volunteer event or party to really show your appreciation and let everyone have fun and let their hair down.
Volunteer management simplified with Rosterfy
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into organizing volunteers. By taking advantage of the robust technology and advice available, you’ll be able to create a robust volunteer management program that benefits both volunteers and your organization.
Alternatively, keep reading more about how to organize volunteers on our blog: