Impactful friend-raising: building and tracking a volunteer workforce

For those who have ever managed volunteers, they will know how hard it is to attract, maintain, and retain them. It’s easy to get someone to do something for a salary, but it is an entirely different experience to inspire people to do something ‘for free’.

Nonetheless, volunteers are an incredibly valuable resource for any organisation. An often overlooked benefit of volunteers is not just the skills and dedication they bring, but also the indirect message their volunteering conveys – volunteering validates your organisation’s mission. If someone is prepared to give up his or her time to help you, it shows clearly there is something about your cause that inspires, motivates, and captivates. That is a useful accolade to inspire donors and non-donors alike!

Building a good volunteer team starts right at the recruitment stage

Create an effective role description. Research suggests that there are two types of volunteers: those that give their time for altruistic reasons and those that give their time for self-development reasons. The description of the volunteer’s role therefore needs to capture both of these elements clearly. One part must demonstrate benefit in terms of human impact, and the other in terms of professional skills gained.

Training is key

The more training you give a volunteer at the beginning, the more valued and empowered they feel, and the longer they stay. Investing time and resources in them from the outset saves time and resources down the line.

Track the effort

For effective volunteer management, organisations need to track the volunteer journey too. This means you must capture how many volunteer roles are offered to the community, the number of applications and “good fits,” what training was administered, and in how many roles a particular volunteer has engaged. You can also learn a great deal from directly asking volunteers their rationale for joining or for scaling back their involvement. This also allows the volunteer to know you’re invested in their success.

Plan for stewardship

Proper volunteer stewardship is the only way to keep volunteers long term, just as it is with donors! Therefore, setting up a volunteer tracking system also allows you to know how long each volunteer has helped your cause. This means you can create a personalised stewardship plan to thank each volunteer in a timely and meaningful way.

All volunteers benefit from clear expectations

Recruiting and retaining senior volunteers, such as Trustees, ought to be treated no differently than when recruiting and retaining other volunteer roles. However, many organisations shy away from elucidating clear expectations when offered time by a senior individual. This is a mistake. It will be much harder to raise involvement if they joined without clear expectations from the start. So from the outset, clearly communicate expectations. Clarity will also ensure they enjoy their experience more!

Click here for more insights about the IDPE and Graham-Pelton Benchmarking Survey results, and the way your organisation may benefit from our findings.

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