March 21, 2014
According to Nonprofit Quarterly, many organizations could be losing key volunteers simply because they fail to provide the same type of engagement that would be shown to full-time employees.
However, volunteer retention is not about money and not only about saying thank you. NPQ recommends most nonprofits enlist a volunteer coordinator who has the time and resources to make finding and engaging volunteers a high priority. As with fundraising, organizations should be proactive and not wait until they need help to ask for it.
Building up a volunteer base even when nonprofits don't need the assistance will make it easier to find those willing to donate their time later. Some volunteers can also receive additional training if time is placed between their recruitment and when they are needed. This can help the coordinator elicit and develop inherent skills the volunteer may possess and determine what predisposition they may have toward particular volunteer activities or positions.
Determining who should coordinate volunteers
It's understandable that most nonprofits would not jump with joy at the premise of creating a new position. No matter how useful the person may be, it's hard to justify a new hire when budgets are tight. It is certainly acceptable to appoint the duties of a volunteer coordinator to an existing employee. However, nonprofit leaders must ensure they are not saddling the employee with more than they can effectively manage.
Organizations should choose an employee who has the time and the charisma needed to engage people and ask them to donate their time. This employee should have the time to perform tasks such as sending volunteers personal thank-you cards, birthday cards and Christmas cards. NPQ also explains that a volunteer newsletter is a great way to retain volunteers. Sending out a publication that is all about volunteers – who they are and how they've helped – will illustrate the appreciation that the nonprofit has for this special group of people.
As an organization builds a collection of committed volunteers, it will find projects run more effectively as familiar faces show up time after time. Reducing volunteer onboarding by maintaining a strong relationship with volunteers is essential to running a successful nonprofit.
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