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Volunteers - Recruiting And Retaining Volunteers In Your Non Profit Organization

Volunteers are the main reason your nonprofit will succeed - especially in the first few years of your development. They should be treated as valuable as financial donors - and given the tools they need to succeed in helping your organization.

Many organizations focus all their efforts on attracting new volunteers and then they are surprised when they stop volunteering. Without some sort of a formal volunteer program your organization is bound to face the same challenges.

Here are a few things you can do to be sure that your volunteers feel valued by your organization.

Have a professional volunteer application and interview process. Create a form for volunteers to complete in person, on line or mail to them to complete and return when they express an interest in volunteering.

Once you have received the completed volunteer application follow up with the volunteer within a day or two and schedule an appointment to meet with them. Interview them as you would an employee, giving them information about your organization, as well as finding out what their motivational factors are for volunteering. Don't wait to long to contact a volunteer as their motivation may change within a day or two of contacting you for information. Also be sure all your printed materials provide an opportunity to check a box for those interested in volunteering.

Create a Volunteer Orientation Manual and Hold A Training Session. Once a volunteer is ready to help your organization you should make sure they receive the training and background information they need to succeed. Just as a new employee might receive a job description and training, volunteers are no exception.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a small manual that details important aspects of your organization and includes a volunteer description. This will let the volunteer know what is expected of them. A standard pocket folder should be suitable along with basic information that can be put inside the folder.

Examples of what to include in your volunteer manual include:

History of the Organization

Mission Statement

Programs and Services you offer

Membership and Giving Opportunities

Commonly Asked Questions

Volunteer Policies and Procedures

Volunteer Position Descriptions

Volunteer Time Log


A word about Volunteer Time Logs. It's important that volunteers keep track of their hours so that you can use this data for many uses. From showing potential funders how many volunteers support your cause, to rewarding volunteers with hours of service, volunteer time logs are very important.

Most organizations have the volunteers fill out logs that are provided to them which they keep and turn them in on a monthly basis. The logs can then be compared to a master volunteer schedule that is kept. Don't forget that volunteers can also include their travel time to and from your facility.


Volunteers will help your organization for a number of reasons - but no matter what the reason they will not want to help if they don't feel appreciated. From sending a short thank you card, to formally recognizing them at special events, or just saying 'thanks' on a daily basis, it's important that you frequently let them know just how valuable they are. 

Host a yearly Volunteer and Donor Recognition Event.

Volunteers and major donors are your greatest resource, yet many organizations struggle with how to properly thank them for their dedicated efforts. Host a recognition event and don't forget to keep them in the loop of all the fundraising events available that they can support. To keep costs down send a letter style invitation with envelope with all the details and have them call to RSVP to save on costs. Ask if a board member, or other supporter with a unique home and property, would consider hosting a Sunday afternoon event. Prepare certificates or pins to recognize volunteers who have accumulated a number of hours or years of service. Ask local restaurants and grocery stores to donate simple appetizers and drinks and be sure to recognize these generous donors at your event. Also collect donations of gift certificates and goodies from your community to give away during the day in door prize format. Make a fun day and your donors and volunteers will hold your organization in high regard helping to promote great publicity and moral! 


How can your organization attract Volunteers?

Attracting volunteers to your organization is not as hard as it may sound. From keeping your name in the papers through press releases, to being sure your donation envelopes have a box that a potential volunteer can check to receive more information, opportunities are everywhere.

Newsletters offer one of the best ways to highlight the work of your volunteers - and make others want to join their ranks. Feature a volunteer and give a story on how they help. Include fun pictures and be sure to give potential volunteers a contact name and number of whom they can contact. Then be sure the contact person follows up with the potential volunteer within a day or two at most. Many individuals become energized to help when they read or see something that strikes a nerve. Many times that excitement won't last if many days go by before they are approached. Strike while the iron is hot getting them energized and enthusiastic about the ways in which they can help. Dedication and enthusiasm is contagious so spread it around and you'll see what can happen!





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