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How to Create a Sustainable Volunteer Program

This image shows raised hands supporting the article's idea about successful volunteer programs for nonprofits

Turning one-time volunteers into longtime volunteers isn’t easy. That’s why establishing a sustainable, organized and engaging volunteer program should be one of your organization’s top priorities. Chances are, your nonprofit most likely couldn’t stay afloat without volunteers, so follow these tips in order to treat them right and manage them well.

Set goals

Ask your volunteers to perform purposeful tasks and help them visualize their impact through goal-setting. One of the main reasons volunteers may be unlikely to return to an organization is if they feel like their presence wasn’t necessary or worthwhile, so avoid assigning “busywork” at all costs.

With measurable, attainable goals—both long-term and short-term—your volunteers will feel the difference they’re making firsthand. Short-term goals will motivate volunteers during each individual session (for example, we want to feed X-many people today).

Long-term goals will keep volunteers emotionally invested in the results of your mission over an extended period of time. In other words, they’ll keep coming back for more. You’ll be able to form relationships with recurring volunteers and build a tribe of long-term supporters who provide consistent support and believe in your cause.

Make sure you’re documenting your goals, too. It’s important to know whether you met, exceeded or fell short of your goals in order to properly evaluate your volunteer program.

Make it fun

Volunteers volunteer because they want to do something for the greater good. But if your goal is to keep them around, you need to make it an all-around fun and engaging experience. Make sure whoever you’ve assigned to coordinate your volunteers is helpful and positive. No one should never feel like they’re waiting around for something to do.

Also, even the smallest of perks can go a long way. With their registration, give volunteers a shirt, a free meal, a drink ticket or anything else related to your event that might brighten their day. These extras, though seemingly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, will make your organization stand out among the rest.

Get a good database

Donors aren’t the only supporters you should be keeping track of. Volunteers have a huge impact on your organization, so it’s important to be organized when managing them. Use an old-school spreadsheet if you must, but a database will do much of the managing for you. With it, you’ll be able to target your communication to certain groups when sending event reminders, sign-up links, etc. It will also make it easier to eventually convert those volunteers into donors. Plus, having a streamlined database system like this means less time manually entering information and more time building real relationships with your supporters.

Follow up

Your volunteers should hear from you immediately after each time they help your organization. This is for a number of reasons, but primarily to thank them. They’re donating their time and talents to your cause out of the goodness of their hearts, so make sure they’re aware of how amazing they are for doing so.

Also in your follow-up, provide a rundown that gives information about upcoming volunteer opportunities, complete with registration links. And, at the end, always offer a feedback survey to gain insight about your volunteers’ experience and learn which areas you can improve going forward.

Volunteers can be an invaluable addition to any organization. Whether they comprise your entire staff or are only needed at the occasional fundraising event, creating a sustainable program for them will make the job easier for everyone.


This article by  was originally published on Nonprofit Hub. Read the article here.