As with your staff, engaging and motivating your volunteers is a major factor in retaining and developing the best team possible to represent your cause.
Granted, it’s easier to overlook volunteer engagement tactics because they are offering their time and energy as a result of their own drive. Recently I covered how to effectively recruit and manage volunteers, now I’m here to show you how to see significant benefits of applying engagement activity to your volunteer management program.
Get on personal terms
Volunteers are donating their time and skills to make a positive difference to your cause.
Acts of ignorance will quickly lead to their energies being invested elsewhere. This is a simple, yet common pitfall for organisations that tend to rely on larger pools of volunteer support.
By using software designed specifically for charities, which that allows you to profile, manage and communicate with your supporters on a personal level, there are no excuses for being impersonal.
Keeping up with the comms
I see many charities making a similar mistake of treating their volunteer resource like that of a relationship with a commercial supplier or an outsourced partner. There is radio silence for months on end, then their services are suddenly required and the communication kicks in.
You may get away with this for suppliers, but for your team of volunteers, it can have damaging effects on retention rates.
Avoid this easily by keeping volunteers up to date, even when you think there isn’t much to talk about. Simple tactics such as quirky competitions, humorous angles of recent events and an insight into office antics can be scheduled in advance and will personalise your cause further. Naturally, ensure the communications platform you use can personalise your messages and allows your supporters to easily manage their email preferences.
Training and development
I’ve mentioned maximising your volunteer management programme in previous articles, and it applies here too. Similar to the professional development for your staff members, your volunteer management programme should encourage skills development for each individual volunteer. Although the extent of training can vary depending on the nature of your cause and the involvement of volunteers, an essential requirement you will need is a comprehensive supporter management solution that not only tracks the progress of individual supporters but can also automate tasks to celebrate when individuals achieve milestones.
Developing and engaging your pool of volunteers does not have to drain the resource of your office staff.
Reflecting the motivational techniques of the workplace environment can work wonders for volunteer morale too. If you don’t already recognise management, supervisors, workers and trainees across your volunteers, I recommend introducing the roles in time for your next event or occasion. You’ll find sharing the accountability of tasks generally becomes clearer and easier, and just by having a personal progression model in place will encourage your supporters regardless of their initial ambitions.
Don’t second guess
To keep your volunteers engaged and interactive with your cause, you have to know what makes them tick not only on a personal level (like I’ve already mentioned) but also as a collective. Using the data from feedback forms and surveys makes decision-making easier for you. Better still, being able to see the trends as a collective, whilst also automatically building up a 360-degree view of the individual volunteers helps you to really get under the skin when you need to.
Minimise volunteer admin time
You’ll probably find that (once you have feedback surveys set up that is) your volunteers are committed to your organisation because they want to spend their time with like-minded people making a tangible difference to a cause they believe in. So do your volunteers a favour by reducing and removing as much red tape as you can. Consider all of the processes that your volunteers must complete in order to represent your brand. Can they be optimised? Do your expense claims and time sheet submissions really have to be paper-based still? Is your Charity ready for Digital Transformation? [link] If the answer to all of these questions is yes, your volunteers will thank you for it.
It’s not rocket science, and chances are you have already applied most of the above into your existing or previous volunteer management activity. I find the key is to rely on digital processes and software that automatically produce the metrics, reports and dashboards that keep you on track.