How to create a memorable volunteer experience–Part 2

On Wednesday, March 23rd, GlobalGiving hosted a training on volunteer recruitment, management and retention. Listen to the training recording. Visit the training slides. We are blogging about the topics that we discussed in this training. Earlier this week, we talked about recruiting volunteers that are right for your organization. Today, I want to summarize our conversation on how to create a volunteer program that gets your volunteers excited, passionate, and eager to help.

Be prepared!

Don’t get caught off guard. Hosting or managing a volunteer can be a lot of work. Before your volunteer starts, be sure to discuss the volunteer’s task and your expectations, such as time commitment, performance quality, etc. Have a conversation about the logistics of the volunteer experience including associated costs, accommodations, travel, etc. It is also important to have emergency contact information for your volunteers.

Take some time to understand the legal requirements associated with hosting volunteers in your country of operations. For example, in the United States, there are regulations pertaining to volunteers’ interactions with children. In many cases, organizations are expected to conduct background checks on volunteers. Your organization may also want to consider consulting legal counsel to develop a volunteer waiver.

Create a volunteer experience

Think of your volunteer’s time with your organization as an “experience.” What type of experience do you want your volunteer to have with your organization? One that leaves them to eager to tell family members, friends, co-workers, etc. about the great work you’re doing! Here are some tips for creating a great volunteer experience:

  • Help your volunteer fall in love with your organization by helping them to understand the community needs that you’re addressing, seeing the projects in action, and sharing success stories.
  • Give your volunteers a holistic view of your organization. Let them know about the challenges facing your organization and your long-term needs.
  • Encourage a sense of ownership and belonging. You might consider giving volunteers a project that they can own or by recognizing them as a valuable member of team.
  • Become familiar with your volunteer’s unique skills and interests.  Work with them to select tasks that are appropriate for their qualifications.
  • Provide your volunteer with the necessary tools and training to succeed! Remember that volunteers may not be familiar with the type of work that your organization does.

Thank you, volunteers

Specific, immediate thank you’s go a long way. During a volunteer’s time with your organization make sure to take notice of the work they are doing and thank them for specific accomplishments. This will let your volunteer know that you have noticed their work and value their contribution to your organization.

Thank volunteers again as they’re getting ready to leave and then follow up with another thank note, email, or call a week or two after they have left.

Get feedback

Check in regularly with volunteers, particularly if they are with your organization for several weeks or months. Show interest in your volunteer’s impressions of their experience by asking questions and requesting suggestions. Accept constructive criticism and make relevant changes to your volunteer program.

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