Every organization, whether for profit or nonprofit, relies on the quality of their human resources above all else. And for those of us in the nonprofit world, we often rely more on unpaid human resources (volunteers) than on paid staff. But if people are not being compensated monetarily for their work, what can we do to get them through the door – and then how can we incent them to keep them coming back? It’s a tough question, so it’s no surprise that the struggle associated with recruiting and engaging volunteers is a recurring topic here.
When recruiting for volunteers, it’s easy to become overly focused on just getting bodies – any bodies – into seats. What we need to remind ourselves is that the key to successful recruiting and engagement is to get volunteers invested in your organization’s mission.
This task can be difficult. In many organizations, volunteers are shuffled between different projects, assigned seemingly random tasks, and too often sent packing with little in the way of appreciation. But there is an easy way to get volunteers to care about your organization: tell them about the impact they are having! Simply showing someone exactly how their hard work is impacting others can be the difference between a one-time volunteer and someone who will want to be involved again and again.
Sounds easy enough, right? Tell your volunteers about how your organization is impacting the community you serve. But many nonprofits are not measuring impact. This begs the question: if you don’t know your own impact, how can you tell your volunteers what impact they are having?
One method is to survey volunteers. You are probably already asking individuals for feedback, but you may be limiting the questions to ones regarding processes or team dynamics. For your next survey, consider expanding your questions to include ones like:
- What have you observed or heard from community members this year that indicates your services made a difference to them or changed their lives?
- Can you tell whether or not your efforts have had results? What are the indicators?
- Did you meet the goals we mutually set for your work this year? How do you know? Do you think these were the right goals?
- Did anything unexpected occur as a result of your volunteer activities (something that was important to our community members) this year?
These are sample questions developed by Susan Ellis of Energize, Inc. She says that asking volunteers questions like these can actually help your nonprofit describe its own impact.
Impacting the Bottom Line
Jennifer Chandler, writer for the National Council of Nonprofits shared some important findings from Volunteer Trends in 2014. One of the more interesting takeaways had to do with the link between volunteers and donors. According to a 2014 Study of Donors, there is a direct correlation between the amount an individual volunteers and the amount they donate to nonprofit initiatives. The more invested an individual is in a program or an organization, the more likely they are to contribute financially to help achieve success. So recruit individuals to volunteer with you and you might just have a lifelong donor on your hands!
In light of all this, it’s clear that impact plays a significant role in the success of nonprofit organizations. It’s a complex balancing act to drive initiatives, recruit a motivated and engaged volunteer team, and ensure that your entire organization and its donors understand the impact you’re having. And remember, even when you’re working with a team of long-term volunteers, volunteer screening is vital.
What success has your organization had with identifying your impact and sharing it with your volunteer team? Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to share your success stories!