4 Ways to Engage Volunteers

They may work for free, but volunteers deserve as much attention as paid staff when it comes to recruitment & retention.

Your organization probably has a great plan when it comes to maintaining and increasing your donor base, but how about your volunteers?

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we've compiled four solid ways to engage with volunteers and encourage them to become longtime advocates for your mission.

1. Get to know Your Volunteers

Whether it's through questions on their initial volunteer application, surveys, or casual conversation, it's incredible helpful to know who your volunteers are and what they are interested in.

If you're using SAM, you can record this information in your database and update as time goes on. With information about your volunteers stored in SAM, finding for individuals with specific talents or interests for events is a breeze!

Some information to ask your volunteers about..

  • What's your reason for volunteering with our organization? Their answers can also be used in marketing materials, social media posts, and donor appeals.
  • What's your professional background? Having this data is incredibly valuable should your organization need pro bono help from a lawyer, computer expert, or healthcare worker.
  • Do you have any special skills or talents? A volunteer who can juggle is a great asset for children-centric events, while volunteers who can cook come in handy during dinners and bbqs.
  • What kind of events and roles are you interested in volunteering for? Volunteers are more likely to say "yes" to tasks and events that align with their interests.
  • What days and times can you volunteer? This allows you to target invites only to volunteers who are available.

2. Encourage and Promote Volunteerism

It only takes a few seconds to take a photo of one of your volunteers in action, pair it with a quote about why they are passionate to help with your agency's mission, and share it with the world on social media.

Not only does this spread the word about your agency's work, it recognizes the volunteer's hard work and shows others how they can become a part of making the world a better place.

Write about what your volunteers do in your newsletter and / or blog, or share stories from your volunteers about why they believe in your organization for donor appeal letters.

Encourage others to volunteer with your organization by frequently sharing opportunities to help out large and small, as we talk about in our next tip...

3. Offer a Variety of Opportunities to Help

Not everyone can give up a full day, which is why you should offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, from small, one-time events to reoccurring commitments.

In addition to offering a variety of time commitments, offer a variety of volunteer duties. Some might prefer envelope stuffing over events. Use the data you've collected in your SAM to solicit volunteers for tasks and events based off their unique skills, talents, and interests.

4. Recognize and Celebrate Your Volunteers

Everyone likes to be appreciated, especially when helping for free. Recognize your volunteers throughout the year in small and big ways. Present them with a certificate, created from your SAM. Note their birthdays in SAM and send a customized birthday template (via an auto action, of course). Send monthly or quarterly emails to your volunteers to recognize their vital part in your mission. Host a large celebration once a year to say thank you.

However you do it, a little recognition can go a long way to making volunteers feel appreciated and important to your organization.

Want more tips? The RGK Center for Philanthropy & Community Service has put together an incredibly in-depth guide on volunteer engagement! You can download their free report here.