Volunteers are essential to the longevity of your non profit. Volunteers help with fundraising, delivering the program, administration and community engagement. Without them, most non-profits simply wouldn't be able to survive.
So, if we know that volunteers are invaluable to an organisation, it makes sense that they are recruited, supported and resourced appropriately. However, with the limited time and resources that most non profits face, volunteer management is often put in the ‘too hard’ basket.
That’s where a volunteer management program can help.
What is a volunteer management program?
Put simply, a volunteer management program encompasses all the steps that a non profit organization takes to recruit, track, engage, recognise and retain volunteers. A detailed volunteer management strategy can help create operational efficiencies while creating 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.
Not sure if your organisation needs a volunteer management solution? These are five warning signs to look out for.
Yes, it will take some time and effort to set up a volunteer management program, but the investment will pay off tenfold. A robust team of engaged volunteers will help your non profit achieve its goals.
To help you get started, we’ve created this comprehensive non-profit volunteer management guide. The guide aims to explain how volunteer management works in the following areas:
- What are the 3 Rs of good volunteer management?
- What is Volunteer Management Software?
- Scheduling and rostering
- Attendance Tracker
- Volunteer management best practices
What are the 3 Rs of effective volunteer management?
The 3 R's of a Volunteer Management System are focused on three main areas:
Getting these three things right will go a long way to ensuring your non profit is sustainable and successful.
In the next section, we’ll cover these three areas, but let's take a step back and look at creating a volunteer program. I.e. What do you actually want your volunteers to do?
Creating a program
The first step when creating a volunteer program is identifying exactly what your organization hopes to achieve. What are your overall goals, and how can volunteers help you achieve them? To help you answer these questions, sit down with your organising committee and consider the following questions:
- What are some areas where we need additional support?
- What specific skills are we lacking?
- Can we define specific roles for volunteers?
- Do we need ongoing or ad-hoc support?
- Who will be in charge of managing volunteers?
- What time commitment do we need from volunteers?
- What will volunteers learn or gain in return?
Our tip: This Volunteer Job Description Template is a great free resource.
Once you have answered these questions, you should have enough information to create volunteer job descriptions and begin recruitment.
Recruiting volunteers to fill those roles is an ongoing process. It involves promoting your opportunities, inviting prospective volunteers to apply, then screening, interviewing, training and onboarding - much like the process of hiring staff. Thanks to digital tools, this process is easier than ever for both the organization and the volunteer. In your volunteer management handbook, make sure you cover these points:
- Who are you targeting: specific demographics?
- Where will you find these people?
- What communication channels will you use?
- How will you onboard and train them?
Our tip: For further information, check out our article on strategies for implementing a volunteer recruitment plan
Throughout the process, keep in mind your organisations goals and look for volunteers who you think will help you achieve them.
A 2020 Volunteer Victoria report found that volunteer retention, already a major issue for organisations, has only become harder due to COVID-19. We know volunteer recruitment is a major undertaking in the first place, so it’s important to have strategies in place that can help you retain these volunteers year after year, reducing your overall workload.
So, what is the best way to retain volunteers? Consider these retention strategies in your volunteer management plan:
- Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere
- Take advantage of technology to make the entire volunteer experience as seamless as possible
- Focus on putting volunteers in roles that suit their skills
- Ensure you have adequate resources to make volunteers feel supported
- Create a community (online or in-person) so that volunteers have the chance to bond and connect with each other
- Find opportunities for repeat volunteers to take on more responsibility or learn new skills
- Host thank you events such as awards nights or lunches
- Have a clear recognition process in place
In the next section, we’ll cover how to recognise and reward your volunteers.
Volunteer recognition doesn't have to be a large investment. Simple messages of appreciation or certificates of recognition can really make volunteers feel appreciated and help retain them over time. The point to remember is that it’s less about what you choose to do, and more about ensuring you always do something.
Including this step in your non profit volunteer management guide will ensure it becomes a vital part of operational procedure, not a last minute scramble.
Our tip: Stuck for ideas? Check out these 30 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
Tools and Software
What is Volunteer Management Software?
Volunteer management software is your new best friend! It is specifically designed to help non profit organisations recruit, screen, train, engage and retain volunteers, from one central place. It also helps reduce friction, admin, confusion and no-shows that can be major headaches for volunteer managers.
See how volunteer management software can save you time, effort and money, so you can focus on achieving your goals!
Make a good first impression by making the recruitment process simple and professional for potential volunteers. Volunteer management software allows you to create custom branded online registration forms so you can ask the right questions and recruit the right volunteers from day one.
Scheduling & Rostering
Replace manual processes and clunky worksheets with automatic smart scheduling. Volunteer management software can screen and schedule the right volunteers for a specific event or shift by skill set, location and availability.
Stay connected with your volunteers through inbuilt communication tools that use technology to ensure that volunteers receive confirmations, reminders, briefings and alerts via email, SMS and in their volunteer portal. You can even see who hasn't opened their email yet, so you can follow up with them directly!
Volunteer management software allows you to automate the all-important training and onboarding process. Set custom training quizzes or videos within the software and let volunteers progress through the training modules in their own time. The software automatically tracks who has and hasn't completed their training and sends out reminders.
Manage volunteer check in and check out at events with ease with attendance trackers including QR codes, or geo-fencing which allows volunteers to check in via their mobile device as they approach their shift location.
Imagine being able to login and instantly see the status of your roster, shifts fulfilled and accepted, check in rates and email open rates. Automated reporting saves your organisation so much time, while driving transparency and identifying potential issues ahead of time.
Reward & Recognition
As we covered earlier, recognising and rewarding the efforts of your volunteers doesn't have to be a big grand gesture, but it is an important step towards building an engaged and fulfilled volunteer workforce. Volunteer management software with built-in reward features gives volunteers the power to choose how they want to be rewarded, from merchandise and apparel, through to event tickets and discounts.
Empower your volunteers to take control of their volunteer journey with the ability to make updates to their account via their dedicated volunteer portal. From updating their personal details, applying for or changing shifts, to uploading skills and licences, every little bit helps reduce the time you spend on admin.
Free non profit volunteer management tools
Non profit volunteer management best practices
When it comes to marketing your volunteer program, you should leverage your network as much as possible. Here are our favourite outreach and communication ideas to help your organization find more people:
- Your existing network: Chances are, you already have a database of people who are interested in hearing more about your organisation such as donors, event attendees, or previous volunteers. Start by sending them an email detailing the volunteer roles you are looking to fill and a direct link to your volunteer registration form. For best results, encourage them to forward it on to three of their close friends or family.
- Your website: Set up a dedicated page on your website where potential volunteers can browse and sign up. Best of all, these people are already aware of the work you do, making the recruitment process that bit easier!
- Volunteer recruitment websites: These websites help match thousands of volunteer opportunities across the country with volunteers looking for roles in specific areas, causes or skill sets. This not only opens you up to a whole new network, but it also sends qualified and interested volunteers your way. Check out:
- Social media: Reach out to your existing network on social media, and encourage them to share your post with their network. These are some of our favourite post ideas:
- Post a ‘Volunteer of the Month’ photo, and include a link to invite more volunteers to sign up.
- Host a live video and invite people to ask questions about your organisation or volunteer program.
- Post photos from events and share quotes or video interviews with volunteers
- Be active! Always respond to questions and comments, and invite two-way communication.
Love it or hate it, training is a big part of the volunteer's onboarding process. But it doesn’t have to be a deterrent. Following these five best practices when it comes to training will ensure you don't lose volunteers before they’ve even started!
- Offer online training modules that volunteers can complete in their own time.
- Give volunteers as much time as possible to complete
- Use an online tracking system to accurately record who has completed each module, so volunteers don't have to repeat anything.
- Identify any training that is specific to a role or event, and only ask the volunteers concerned to undertake it
- Make it fun! Use interactive videos, quizzes and photos to keep the modules brief and engaging.
More often than not, it’s your volunteers who are out there meeting donors, speaking to community members and spreading your organisation’s mission. So it’s important to have open lines of communication so they feel comfortable sharing any feedback or insights that could help your organisation. The best way to do this is by setting up a volunteer survey that you send out after a volunteer involving event. In it, consider asking the following questions:
- What do you like and dislike about volunteering with us?
- What feedback (good and bad) have you received about our organisation or program?
- What could we do to improve the volunteer program?
- How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or family member? Give a rating out of 10 (using an NPS score).
Our tip: An NPS (Net Promoter Score) and is used to track customer experience. By tracking the average score over time, you can see whether your volunteer management program is improving or declining over time, and implement changes to fix it.
Volunteer management simplified with Rosterfy
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into creating a non profit volunteer management guide. But by using this guide, hopefully you’ll be able to create a robust volunteer management program that benefits both volunteers and your organisation.
Alternatively, keep reading more about how to manage volunteers in a non profit on our blog: