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Are You Showing Your Volunteers Enough Appreciation?
March 22, 2018

9 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Volunteer Program

You probably cannot count the number of times you’ve said: “We just can’t get volunteers.” And if you can count on your hands, you will probably run out of fingers. There is a reason why you are in need of volunteers constantly, and it comes down to the mistakes you are making with your volunteer management program.

Your volunteer management program needs a concrete strategy that prioritizes your volunteer’s needs. Whether you are a non-profit, school, hospital, or library, a good volunteer base needs to be built on a solid program center around communication, acknowledgment, and relationships.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the nine common mistakes organizations make with their volunteer program.

1| Lack of Consistent and Clear Communication

Clear and consistent communication is vital when managing volunteers. When volunteer coordinators don’t communicate properly, volunteers are unaware of expectations. Such examples are:

  • Volunteers are unaware of volunteer opportunities for upcoming events, activities, and needs.
  • Volunteers lack clear instructions for location, time, and other logistics.
  • No understanding of volunteer responsibilities.
  • Volunteers don’t receive acknowledgment for their contributions.
Communicating should be a way for your organization to reach and engage your volunteers, answer questions, provide recognition, and highlight upcoming volunteer opportunities. All these pitfalls can result in a decrease in volunteer retention and poor volunteer experience. Not to mention it is a direct reflection of the organization.

Communication is key, always.

Avoid communication mistakes by developing a plan for how your volunteer program will tackle communication. From newsletter blasts to using social media, there are many ways to connect with your volunteers to ensure clear and consistent communication is provided.

2| Not Focusing on Relationships

To run a successful volunteer program, you should get to know those who are on your team. Treat volunteer interactions as relationships rather than transactional. Take time to prioritize volunteers by getting to know them, making new volunteers feel welcomed, and nurturing the overall relationship. A volunteer who says no this time might be the one to say yes the next time you are looking for help.

3| Not Playing to Volunteer’s Strengths

While trying to fulfill volunteer positions you may fail to see where potential volunteers will shine the most. Many of your volunteers will have a diverse set of skills, backgrounds, and interests. If you fail to consider the diversity of your volunteers, you will not be efficiently using their strengths to your advantage.

Tailor your application process to discover volunteer’s strengths. Align volunteers with the right opportunities by placing them in roles where they can thrive. When you place volunteers in the right positions, volunteer engagement increases and you’ll have a greater rate of volunteer retention.

How You Can Align Volunteers with The Right Opportunities:

It’s been mentioned by organizations before, people are your greatest asset. This has never been more true with volunteer programs. People ARE your greatest asset; so here is how you can discover volunteer strengths and align them with the right volunteer roles.

  • Search for skills you need. Consider what skills you may need from volunteers. Reach out to previous volunteers and supporters with the right skill sets or experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need!
  • Update volunteer profiles. Store volunteer information in a database so you can access the information easily. Having relevant data on file will help you find the best volunteers for the right position. Collect this data through your volunteer applications, surveys, and by getting to know your volunteers.
  • Just ask! Always consider what your volunteers are most interested in working on. Send out surveys or ask specific individuals how they’d like to contribute and where. Volunteers want to be placed where they are most interested and can use their strengths.

4| Not Implementing a Digital Strategy

Do you have an online strategy for reaching your volunteers? Similarly to not communicating efficiently, not having a digital strategy impacts volunteer engagement. Depending on your goals you can implement a few different strategies to engage volunteers online.

  • Newsletters: You can create a volunteer specific newsletter highlighting volunteer opportunities, recognizing specific individuals, and providing key information.
  • Social media: Social media has become a key player in communication. Use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to communicate volunteer opportunities. You can even create groups for you and your volunteer members to post recent activity photos, updates, and volunteer opportunities.
Make the most out of your volunteer management strategy by effectively using communication channels.

5| Letting Volunteer Retention Take a Backseat

Recruiting volunteers takes time. From finding the right volunteer and following up on their application to placing them in the right position; volunteer recruitment is hard work! However, most volunteer managers allow volunteer retention to take a backseat, relying on new recruits to fill volunteer slots.

Invest Time in Volunteer Retention

Make an effort to learn about your volunteers. Show volunteers you and the organization values their contribution, support, and service. Boost volunteer retention by seeing your volunteers as individuals and recognize their efforts. Volunteers can also help better your organization’s processes by providing their feedback and input. Giving volunteers the opportunity to voice their thoughts to develop a deeper connection between them and the organization. Address the points of enjoyment and pain volunteers experience at your organization to better understand how you can increase volunteer retention.

6| Not Showing Appreciation Often Enough

Volunteer retention and volunteer appreciation go hand in hand. It is true; volunteers don’t expect something in return for their service. However, it is important to thank them for their contributions. A thank-you note or public acknowledgment will lift volunteer morale, and remind volunteers of their value and appreciation of the organization. Check out how you can show volunteer appreciation here!

7| Not Being Prepared

Volunteers want you to be prepared for them. Don’t bring volunteers in if you are still trying to work everything out. Ensure all proper materials, papers, and people are present before you hand off work to a volunteer.  Not being prepared or having the tools and resources for volunteers to complete their job is a direct insult to their time.

Which leads us to our next point...

8| Lack of Volunteer Time Consideration

Nothing portrays the wrong message more than not valuing your volunteers time. When a volunteer shows up on time and ready to help only to discover there’s no work to do.  That can put a bad taste in your volunteer’s mouth.

Likewise, similar to not being prepared, when a volunteer shows up for their scheduled shift and finds that none of the materials are there, they can end up standing around waiting.

These scenarios and similar situations give the message that your volunteer group is disorganized and has a disregard for volunteers' time. Avoid this mistake by being prepared, organized, and if all else fails, communicating to your volunteers accordingly, so you are not wasting their time.

9| Not Training Your Volunteers

Training is key to making you and your volunteers happy with their work. Even if an assigned task is simple, take the time to explain, demonstrate, and mentor the volunteer through the project. Pair an experienced volunteer with a newer volunteer.

In your training be sure to include clear expectations for your volunteers. Let them know what the project entails and how they are contributing to the organization.


KeepnTrack Volunteer Mangement

Managing volunteers and volunteer records can be a big task in of itself. And we know it’s an essential part of maintaining your organization's resources. KeepnTrack is a web-based software that offers a dynamic approach to managing volunteer data. You can use KeepnTrack to organize volunteer activities, send out email blasts to volunteers, record volunteer hours logged and more. If you are looking for a simplified way to track volunteer activity at your institution, learn more today!

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