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How to Recruit and Retain your Most Valuable Volunteers

Whether your group has 5 or 5,000 volunteers, the fundamentals of volunteer engagement are the same. Your volunteers are amazing individuals. Each one is committed to your organization, passionate and provides a unique and valuable skill set. Following are some guidelines we’ve gathered to help you recruit, engage and retain your most exceptional volunteers so you can meet (and hopefully beat) the goals and objectives of your organization. We start from the beginnings of a new group, so if your organization is more mature, you can skip ahead!

  1. Assess your organizational needs. Think “big picture” here. Look at where your organization is now, and where you’d like to be in the future. What are your goals, and how do you plan to get there? Once you determine that, you need to figure out the skills and talents you need to help you get there.
    1. When you’re in the assessment stage, be sure to include all of the stakeholders in your organization (board members, staff members, and volunteer coordinators).
    2. If you don’t already, have a mission statement.
    3. Consider what your organization is doing well and what you could accomplish if you had more resources.
    4. Identify specific tasks that you need to complete.
    5. Identify the challenges your organization is experiencing.
    6. Consider where your organization feels under- or overstaffed.
    7. Evaluate the skill sets your organization is missing.
  2. Create “job” descriptions. Creating position descriptions for your volunteers is a great way to clarify your expectations for your volunteers. Position descriptions also demonstrates to volunteers that the work they’re doing within the organization is valuable.
  3. Have a formal application and “hiring” process. While it seems tempting to accept anyone who wants to volunteer for your organization, that’s not always the best idea. Your volunteer application form should ask prospective volunteers for basic personal information, and include an area where they can describe their knowledge and skills that might be valuable to your organization. In addition, you should have a volunteer handbook or agreement in place to describe expectations, policies and procedures for all volunteers.

After you’ve received applications, you can continue with the process of face-to-face interviews. Depending on the nature of your organization (e.g., one that works with children or the elderly), a background check is recommended before bringing a new volunteer on board.

4. Provide orientation and training. Don’t expect your new volunteers to immediately step in and know what they’re supposed to do. Investing a few hours training your new team members helps ensure that your best practices are followed and that your volunteers will have long-term success with your organization.

5. Track their time. Volunteer time is valuable. Accurate tracking of volunteer hours is not only a key measure of your organization’s effectiveness, but it’s also required for grants and other funding opportunities. Keeping an accurate record of all volunteer hours (whether paper-based, a spreadsheet, or a volunteer management program) is crucial when it comes time to measure the performance and growth of the organization.

6. Manage their performance. In addition to providing orientation and training, managing your volunteers’ performance will set up both your organization and your volunteers for success. Be prepared to have constructive, non-confrontational conversations if problems arise or when there’s a need for improvement.

7. Recognize and reward your volunteers. Your volunteers want to know that their time and efforts are appreciated and that their contributions to your organization are actually making a difference. Recognizing key milestones, such as the number of hours they’ve logged in a year, or the number of years they’ve volunteered for your organization, don’t ever go unappreciated. Celebrate specific projects that they’ve had an impact on (such as an annual fundraiser).

Here at Woltman Trophies & Awards, we believe that awards are critical to morale in every area of an organization – volunteers included. Our wide range of products recognizes the smallest to the largest accomplishment that needs to be acknowledged. If your organization is looking to start a volunteer awards program, please contact us today!