The initial start on a project is exciting. Your volunteers are jazzed about working with your organization and excited for what’s in store. Then, as time goes on and the dirty work begins, some volunteer’s enthusiasm fizzles out. Engagement suffers and soon, you’re left with about half the number of people you need to make your cause a success.
It doesn’t have to be this way. By recruiting and keeping more engaged volunteers, you can see your projects through and raise the money or awareness you need. Here’s how.
One of the biggest mistakes non-profit organizations make is leaving the decision of what they want to participate in up to the volunteers. This causes confusion and muddles the end game, so volunteers aren’t sure how to best contribute.
To recruit more engaged volunteers, get specific about the roles you need. Then, write down a list of people who can help. Reach out individually to each of those people and ask for their help in a specific area. For example, if you know of someone who is exceptional at raising sponsorship money, ask for help specifically with finding sponsors for your next big event.
Tap Into Already Engaged Volunteers’ Networks
Your volunteers are probably well-connected people. Most of your volunteers show up to several other organizations on a regular basis, including work, church, or networking groups. These people know people who can help. By tapping into their network, you can fill your volunteer roster.
One way to do this is to give your volunteers access to your schedule through a scheduling app. Then, let them see the openings and the times where you need the most help. This lets your volunteers get specific when asking people in their network to step up and fill in the gaps.
Although volunteers work for free, they appreciate feeling appreciated and rewarded for their efforts. Offering incentives can be just the motivation they need to return time and time again to help.
You don’t have to offer extravagant incentives to get more out of your volunteers. For example, you can offer a meal every time they show up and work a full day. Or, you can hold a quarterly barbecue thanking your volunteers for their time. Small gift cards go a long way too. No matter what the incentive, showing your gratitude with something tangible will impact their engagement levels.
Incentives are nice, but unless a volunteer feels a sense of ownership in a project, it will be hard to keep her engaged for the long run.
For all projects your volunteers are involved with, offer a sense of ownership. For example, if your volunteers are planning a golf tournament for your non-profit organization, give them specific goals for how much you need to raise from sponsors, how many golfers you need on the course, or how many raffle prizes you need for the silent auction. Then, place the ownership on them to meet those goals. The more involved with the outcome your volunteers feel, the harder they’ll work.
Avoiding the Fizzle
Avoid volunteer burnout and keep your team engaged from day one. By getting specific about what you need, then offering incentives and ownership in your project, your volunteers will step up from start to finish.
Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007 and again in 2010, 2013 and 2014.