Happy New Year from Volunteer Centre Manchester!
It’s January 2017 and lots of people will be looking to make positive changes in their life, one of which may be volunteering in some form or another. So what better time to have a look at what your volunteering program will look like over the next year? As an organisation that provides volunteering opportunities, with just a few added adjustments it is possible that you can make your volunteering program better than ever!
1. Know your volunteers.
Volunteering organisations that are closer to their volunteers will tend to have a smoother running and more efficient volunteer program. Just as you would tailor your approach when looking for donations or putting in a funding bid, it would make sense to do the same for volunteers.
Volunteers get involved on a deeper level and are more committed to organisations that match their passions, interests, skill sets, and preferences.
Every volunteer is different, and although opportunities and roles you provide may be similar, there will be subtle changes that can be made within the same role to enable you to get the very best out of your volunteer. Let’s take an admin role as an example, this can be tailored by including more telephone duties, social media activities, or data input.
The only way you can get to really know your volunteers is by paying attention!
Here are a few of our suggestions:
Encourage volunteers to fill out surveys
When you acquire a new volunteer try presenting them with surveys that will enable you to find out more about what makes them tick. Provide them with forms that include questions like, what skills they possess, the skills they would like to gain, what interests they have outside of volunteering, what they would like to gain from volunteering with you, and that kind of thing. You can also roll this out with existing volunteers.
Create a volunteer forum
Sometimes, (especially at bigger organisations) volunteers will never get the opportunity to meet other volunteers. If you have the capacity and space to be able to create a forum where volunteers can meet on a monthly basis, it is worth considering. Forums are a great way of encouraging volunteers to share advice, connect and talk about what works for them and how they have overcome obstacles, they can offer peer to peer support, and are a great way of gathering constructive feedback.
Invite volunteers to attend activities outside of their role
It is a good idea to invite volunteers to activities that you have going on outside of their role. If you have bake off days, staff get-together’s, or other events of this nature then think of including volunteers. It helps with getting to know your volunteers and makes them feel part of the wider team.
2. Be flexible.
Another way of increasing volunteer engagement is to make volunteering easy. When volunteering is made more accessible it opens the opportunity up to a wider audience.
We understand this isn’t always possible as most volunteering opportunities generally take place during the working hours of 9-5pm, but there is always the opportunity to streamline and trim around the edges of some of the tasks within a role. For example, depending on the nature of the role it might be that you can allow certain admin or social media tasks to be completed from home. The same goes with any design tasks.
Each organisation is different and you will have to get creative with this but research all the possibilities there may be for streamlining, in particular with all things digital.
3. Tell them they are appreciated!
It’s no surprise but one way of keeping your team of volunteers happy is to thank them as often as you can. Not everyone likes to be thanked in the same way, for example some people would love a standing ovation with rapturous applause while others may find that really uncomfortable, again it comes down to paying attention. While volunteers do not volunteer for this reason, they do like to know that they are valued and appreciated. Let them know!
No matter how many tweaks or changes you put in place there will always be room for improvement. Developing and keeping a healthy roster of volunteers is an ongoing process.
Evaluating your volunteer program at regular intervals is a great way of staying on top of what is working and finding where adjustments need to be made.
Information you can track may include:
• Volunteer acquisition.
• Volunteer retention.
• Channels you use to contact volunteers and how often you use them.
• Communication channels volunteers responded too most.
• Volunteer opportunities or activities that saw the highest engagement levels or participation.
Monitoring the data above is critical to the success of your volunteering program, along with the extras bit of feedback you may receive along the way (think back to the forum we suggested).
Applying some of the above suggestions will provide you with a much more robust and efficient volunteering program for 2017!
For more information, contact us at www.volunteercentremanchester.co.uk or call us on 0161 830 4770.
Good luck with it!