Dec 11, 2013
Unlike most other industries, the weight of nonprofits rests on their volunteers' shoulders. Charities depend on the ever-changing roster of particularly generous individuals to fundraise, manage their boards of directors and some even enlist their help for administrative tasks. But what if volunteers lose interest? Well, according to the National Council of Nonprofits, many would simply be unable to fulfill their missions.
Keeping people interested enough in your organization to donate their time is paramount to achieving and ensuring true sustainability and success. But it's not always as easy as helping others. Here are series suggestions your charitable foundation can use help improve its volunteer program:
Appoint a leader
There are several factors contributing to the success of your volunteer program, but a study from The Urban Institute revealed that dedicating a staff member to oversee volunteers is the best predictor of achieving success. You might be saying that your nonprofit can't afford to devote an employee's time to managing volunteers, but consider the worth to your organization. A volunteer might give 10 hours of their time each week. Assuming their work is worth $15 an hour, the additional volunteers your charity would gain from a dedicated staff member would be enough to warrant the decision alone.
When deciding who should fill the role, examine your candidates to determine if they exhibit the flexibility and understanding needed to be a volunteer coordinator.
Make it fun
One of the most important things to always keep in mind is that volunteers are giving up their time of their own accord. They don't have to be there. Lightening things up will help keep volunteers happy, which will lead to them donating more of their time more often. But don't worry, it's not as though you have to make it all one big party. Things as simple as hosting speakers or directly interacting with who your charity helps can foster an atmosphere of lightheartedness.
Time is valuable
As mentioned earlier, the time volunteers give to your nonprofit is not something that was owed. Don't schedule a volunteer and then leave him or her with nothing to do but ambiguous busy work, like stacking donation forms. Use your volunteers to accomplish goals. Give them work plans and assign them specific tasks with specific deadlines. Volunteers contributed their time because they believe in the mission of your organization and they want to help - not sit around.