Make Sure Your Volunteers Know Your Mission As Well As You Do

Your volunteers aren’t in it for the money, they’re volunteering because they’re enthusiastic about your mission! Consistently ensuring that your volunteers have a firm grasp on your organization’s principles and goals is good not only for PR – they’re a crucial interface between you and the public – but helps you retain your volunteers.

 

You don’t want to overwhelm your volunteers with information – how can you subtly remind them of your organization’s mission throughout the volunteer process? Here are some tips on how to do so during every step of the volunteer recruitment and retention process.

 

Signup. On the very first signup page, you can throw in a hint of what your organization does. Then, as part of the on-boarding process, you can ensure that there is personal understanding of the mission in a few ways. One way is to insert a quiz about the organization – just to check for comprehension. A more personal way is to ask your potential volunteer what the mission means to them, and how they see it playing out in their personal lives.  

 

Job descriptions. Each job description can contain language from the mission statement. The more you can repeat the same language, the better. This makes it more likely that they’ll be able to repeat the mission to folks they interact with.

 

Handouts. Don’t be afraid to hand out one-pagers before an event. The one-pagers can include logistics, maps, tips, and a blurb about how the event forwards the mission.

 

Thank yous. Again, your volunteers are working with you because they believe in your mission. It’s likely that making that connection – yet again – between their efforts and the goals of your organization will make them feel like they’ve contributed something valuable to their communities. There’s no such thing as overdoing this step!

 

Streamlining your communication strategy to focus on your mission – in varied but consistent ways – should be an organizational goal to which volunteer managers can contribute greatly.

 

Do you have any experience with mission-focused communications affecting volunteer satisfaction and retention? We always love to hear from the volunteer coordinators we work with. Email us your tips and tricks at josie@volunteerlocal.com.

 

 

 

 

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The Simple Secret To Recruiting Better Volunteers

                                                   

 

“Volunteers wanted!” How many times have you received an e-mail or walked past a sign with that written on it? If you’re like most people, the answer is: a lot. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the message, it’s lacking a key ingredient that can tremendously help the quality and quantity of your volunteers.  What is it, you ask?

 

Here’s the secret: Be specific!

 

Companies are constantly vying for your attention, time, or dollars. If they all said the same thing, how would you know which to choose? Instead, businesses use specific marketing messages to try and convince you that Pepsi is better than Coke, or Toyota is safer than Honda. If you’re a volunteer coordinator trying to recruit volunteers, we recommend utilizing the same approach.

 

Stand out from the other nonprofits looking for volunteers by being specific about the jobs that need to be filled. The first step is to identify what types of skills are needed for each volunteer position, and then what type of person would best fill it. For example, maybe you’re looking for help with social media. Why not target high school groups to see if they need volunteer hours filled for school? Looking for volunteers to help outdoors with greenery? Go to your local community garden or co-op to hang flyers and find people passionate about composting or recycling.

 

This approach may take more time and thought, but we believe the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.  Being specific with your asks will ensure that you find volunteers that not only have the qualifications for the role, but also the passion to go along with it!

 

We’d love to hear from you! Do you create specific positions and target groups that have those interests and/or skills or do you go with the general approach?

 

P.S., if you’re worried that managing volunteers in numerous roles will be difficult, that’s exactly why we built VolunteerLocal. You can learn more here.

 

 

 

 

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20 Quotes for Volunteer Coordinators Who Need a Boost

Leading people well always has its challenges, but leading people who aren’t paid to show up requires next-level finesse and dedication. We’ve all been in those situations that make us wonder what we’re doing and if it’s worth the hassle, but at the end of the day, volunteering and leading volunteers has a way of reminding us that we’re working toward a greater purpose.

If you’re in need of some inspiration or some words to share with your team, take a look at the list below for some fresh perspective.

 

For the times nothing is going right

  • “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  – Anne Frank
  • “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.” – Erma Bombeck
  • “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew

 

For the times people don’t show up

  • “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr
  • “If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” – Kofi Annan
  • “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

 

For the times your volunteers are struggling

  • “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” – Seneca
  • “The most important service to others is service to those who are not like yourself.” – J. Irwin Miller
  • “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be.” – Og Mandino
  • “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” – Douglas Adams

 

For the times you think no one cares but you

  • “I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” – Edward Everett Hale
  • “It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.” – George Washington Carver

 

For the times you’re feeling burned out

  • “The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” – Mother Teresa
  • “The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.” – Thomas Carlyle

 

For the times you need to remember why

  • “What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” – Aristotle
  • “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

- Rabindranath Tagore

 

 

 

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Quiz: Which Power Volunteer Are You?

We’ve all been to that one perfect event where we’ve experienced the passion and hard work from volunteers.

Some are brand new to the event and can’t get enough, others have been there for years. At VolunteerLocal we know every volunteer is important and want them to feel that way. We’re not implying that one volunteer is better than another, but there are a few every organizer would gladly give a gold star. They’re at every planning meeting (often with treats) and can’t help themselves from signing up for that extra shift. I’m sure we could all name a handful of people that fit that description, but I bet many of us don’t realize we’re one of them! Take our highly scientific quiz to find out which kind of power volunteer you are.

 

  • It’s your first time volunteering for your community’s Relay for Life and at the information session you:
    1. Show up early and offer to help set up chairs and hand out packets as the other volunteers come in.
    2. Came in just a few minutes late, you were jogging over to help train for the race and left a little late.
    3. Made sure to bring your tablet to take notes!
    4. You signed up to run and didn’t realize this was a volunteer information session.

 

  • There is a baseball tournament in your town and every year you are the one that:
    1. Signs up to help with check-in and stays until the last game to make sure everyone finds their fields.
    2. Comes to the field in your team’s uniform since you won’t have time to go change before it’s your turn to play.
    3. Brings a white board to put up where each field is at the sports complex.
    4. Doesn’t like playing, but goes to watch your friends play.

 

  • Your plan for dinner tonight is:
    1. You’ll probably just grab something on the go.
    2. You did your meal planning last night so you have your meals planned and in the fridge.
    3. You just started one of those meal services and tonight you are making a quinoa burger.  
    4. Just throw something together when you get hungry.  

 

  • Your friend is telling you about a music festival, and turns out your favorite band is playing. First thing you do when you get a chance is:
    1. Check your calendar! You have a lot going on during the summer and aren’t sure you will be able to go.
    2. You already have tickets – so you’re all set.
    3. Message a group of friends to see if they want to get tickets together.
    4. Buy tickets for the day the band is playing.

 

  •  Which Harry Potter house are you in?
    1. Hufflepuff
    2. Gryffindor
    3. Ravenclaw
    4. Slytherin

 

  • You and your friend planned to have coffee after work, but they canceled on you last minute, how do you feel?
    1. Glad, you had overbooked and needed to cancel too.
    2. Fine, now you have an extra hour to get a few things done.
    3. A little peeved, but happy to spend time organizing for the upcoming week.
    4. No big deal, stuff comes up.

 

  • Your go to social media application is:
    1. Twitter
    2. Instagram
    3. Pinterest
    4. Facebook

 

Mostly 1’s

The Overtimer: Did someone ask for help? You’re there in a second even if you’ve been working all day. You sign up for set-up but end up staying through tear-down.When everyone hits their mid-afternoon slump, you get coffee for everyone!

 

Mostly 2’s

The Doer: You would sign up for the check-in shift but you already promised friends that you would participate in the event with them. Instead, you hit up the festivities first and join the volunteer forces for the second part of the day. If anyone has questions on what’s happening you’re the right person to answer since you experienced it all first-hand!  

 

Mostly 3’s

The Planner: You’ve been volunteering at the same events for a few years and the dates have been marked in your bullet journal since you made your year overview spread. Your goal is to make the event better every year. You’re always asking questions and teaching newbies the best and fastest ways to get things done. You’re the first one to see a bump in the road and ready with a solution!   

 

Mostly 4’s

The Newbie: You’re a volunteer waiting to happen! How did all these people get signed up to volunteer at these fun events? Reach out to your local chamber of commerce, catch up with an Overtimer friend and reach out to your community. There are volunteer opportunities all around you!

 

 

 

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Assigning Volunteer Roles? It’s All About the Ask

Somewhere out there is an alternate reality in which we all live in perfect weather with views of both the mountains and the ocean, a faraway land full of unicorns and rainbows and people with all sorts of extra free time who ask how they can help. In that lovely place, we all have an abundance of volunteers for our organizations and events and the margin to think intentionally about where each volunteer can best serve. What a world!

 

But seriously, effective volunteer management requires not only filling roles, but also filling the roles with the right people. We don’t always have the flexibility to put our volunteers into their most ideal spot, but how can we use our tools and resources to help others feel like they’re using their talents and abilities?

 

It’s all about the ask.

 

Get to know your volunteers by asking more than just the bare minimum questions. Ask about their hobbies and interests. Ask about their favorite movies or music. Ask about their family, their favorite restaurant, their experience serving with you and with others. Ask them about the things they know they’re not good at. Whatever information gives you insight into a good fit for your volunteers, make sure you ask it!

 

In addition to getting to know your volunteers, provide helpful and intentional information for them, as well. List out the roles you need filled and give the opportunity to self-identify the top spots they’d like to serve.

 

While your internal volunteer job descriptions are likely thorough and detailed, be creative in ways to present a summary of the description for your volunteers.

  • If you need administrative help: Do you alphabetize your bookshelves? Do spreadsheets make you happy? We have a spot for you!
  • If you need greeters: Do you like talking to strangers? Are you labeled a Chatty Kathy/Kenny? Use your power for good!
  • If you need floaters: Do you believe variety is the spice of life? Do you like the unexpected? We need you!

By taking some time to be intentional in this process, you start building rapport with your volunteers and growing their enthusiasm even as they sign up!

 

VolunteerLocal allows you to customize your volunteer registration form to include fun and helpful questions that help engage your volunteers. You can also send a survey over email or set up face-to-face meetings to help get to know each other beyond a name and email address. As you think about the number of volunteers you’re managing and the variety of roles you need filled, choose the method that works best for you!

 

After all of this information gathering, it’s time to put that information to work for you! Gather your team and start assigning roles as a sort of Volunteer Draft Day, and have fun with it! Volunteers want to be wanted, and as your team divvies up the available workers, you’re planting the first seeds of team unity. Your team leaders start getting excited about the people they’re working with, and your volunteers start getting excited about the event. It’s a win-win that sets you up for success in the immediate future and retention in the years ahead.

 

 

 

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5 Great Reasons To Use Social Media to Engage with Volunteers

With all the hype about social media and its potential, it’s easy to lose sight of why using social media is a good tactic. Sure, young people are on it all the time – but does this fact alone make it a great tool? Email remains the preferred method of communication among many adults – and snail mail with seniors – but over 30% of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 prefer social media above all other forms of contact.

 

Being ahead of the curve in the most quickly-growing marketing landscape is reason #1 that using social media to engage volunteers is a great idea.

 

Here are four more that will encourage you to diversify your social media strategy to attract and retain the best-suited volunteers for your organization.

2. Targeting
Need 4 volunteers in Bismarck, North Dakota who have a moderate interest in kickboxing, 5 years of experience working with Photoshop, and a passion for beekeeping? Fear not – Facebook will get you there. With its extremely specific ad targeting, you can select interests, hobbies, preferences, education, location and more in order to advertise to just the right people.

If you have great visuals, you can find your beekeeping dreamboat using image sharing platforms like Instagram. A compelling picture with the right hashtags will attract loads of attention. Why bombard your network with requests when you can find the exact people you need in less time? Read more about these “mini campaigns” here.

3. Accessibility
Advertising on social media can be extremely cheap, or even free (if you play your cards right). In the past, volunteer recruitment campaigns could take many months of brainstorming and huge investments in print media and on-the-ground recruitment. But now, you can test out the messaging of your campaign on a select group for as little as $5. If it doesn’t resonate with your targeted audience, just delete and try again.

4. Connect with Freelancers

Sometimes you don’t need to connect with people in your physical community to get work done. Your kickboxing Photoshop specialist might be enthusiastic about doing pro bono work for your organization even if she lives in Hong Kong. Folks who freelance are already on social media and freelancing sites all the time looking for opportunities, it’s just a matter of finding them.

 

5. Measure Metrics

Social media recruitment has the distinct advantage of being able to measure – up to the second and cent – how effective your engagement strategies are and how they’ve improved over time. Most platforms have analytics built in to their advertising systems, but there are third-party organizations and pieces of software that can compile reports for you if you’re not up to it yourself.

There’s no reason not to develop your organization’s social media presence. Even if your volunteer community largely consists of seniors, starting now will be a distinct advantage in your future. Take advantage of the vast social media volunteer engagement resources available to find your ideal volunteers!

Once your social media is up and running, make sure you have a great website to match by using an easy website builder!

 

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How to Manage Volunteer Expectations

It’s a rare event that doesn’t rely on some kind of volunteer support.

They’re the backbone of any non-profit, along with a surprising number of giant races and multi-million dollar festivals.

Volunteer help is important, but are you getting the people you need? To make sure you are, you need to lay out information clearly for your volunteers.

Make sure you’re open and upfront about what will be expected of your volunteers. Have people sign up for jobs like distributing race packets or checking IDs at the beer tent. A generic “volunteer” option means they don’t know what to expect, and you don’t know what their skills and interests are. That’s a good way to squander talented individuals or end up with an overload of people with similar interests in the same area.

Write up a description for each position, with general information on what is expected. This will make it easy for potential volunteers to find the right fit and stay busy. It also provides a good starting point for super volunteers who may be able to go above and beyond what you’re asking. 

How many times have you visited a website, then went elsewhere because it wanted you to create an account? Sending someone from your website to their email account for verification is inviting huge dropoffs in users. No one wants to remember another password or enter a bunch of information that isn’t relevant to your event. Does your half-marathon really to know the maiden name of everyone’s mother?

Keep it simple and volunteers will come pouring down the funnel.
If they start thinking “Do I really need to do this?” you’re already losing them.

Don’t make anyone dig for information. Have everything a volunteer might need to know in a central place.  Where should they park? Put it on the volunteer page. Where should they check in? Put it on the volunteer page. What should they wear? Who should they get in touch with if they can’t make it? Put it… you get the idea.

 

Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would want to know before waking up on event day. It may feel like second nature to you, but you’ve been planning the event for months. The easier you can make the process for them, the more likely they’ll be to volunteer again.

 

 

For more tips and tricks on how to keep your volunteers happy and create a pleasant nonprofit culture, check out this article on how Your Nonprofit Culture Can Be Ruined by These 3 Common Traps.

 

 

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Tips from USA Triathlon’s Caroline Robinson on Filling Volunteer Shifts

Here at VolunteerLocal, we get asked pretty frequently for advice about how to recruit volunteers more effectively. Especially in the case of triathlons and other endurance events using our platform, those tough-to-fill volunteer positions can sometimes start as early as 5am, and they often span through the early to mid-afternoon.

So we decided to ask the experts: our friends, customers and partners at USA Triathlon.

Meet Caroline Robinson, Event Services Coordinator at USA Triathlon. She helps USAT produce events that range from 900 to over 5,000 athletes – and she works with thousands of volunteers throughout this process in cities across the country.

“Our four National Championships are all very different,” says Robinson. “The smallest event only needs 200 volunteers, but the largest needs nearly 1,000.” Along the way, she’s learned some valuable lessons about volunteer recruitment, retention and communication.

On getting creative.

When it comes to filling volunteer shifts, Robinson is anything but shy.

“We say, reach out to high school kids, collegiate clubs, sports management programs at local colleges and universities, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, local community volunteer databases (online), and tap into those corporations that offer Volunteer Time Off,” she laughs as she adds, “I don’t ever think there’s a group you can’t ask. The worst they can say is no.”

Robinson recommended flexibility and creativity as a part of a comprehensive approach to fill volunteer positions. “If you need to set-up a booth at a local festival, go out and do that. Have the face-to-face contact, speak to a college class for ten minutes.” She cautioned, “Don’t be afraid to go out into the community to speak with these people.”

We think she has a point. It’s a lot tougher to turn down a volunteer ask in-person.

Keep it simple.

Robinson explained that because one of the Championship events will be produced in Cleveland this year, she has to rely heavily on outside groups to provide volunteers. “There’s only so much we can do from Colorado Springs,” she says. “So we try not to overburden our groups with a complicated sign-up process.”

For Robinson, it’s as simple as saying, ‘we’re looking for volunteers, here’s the date, here’s the link’ – and she likes to begin her outreach with certified Coaches, Race Directors and other officials who aren’t working the event.

In this regard, Robinson strongly recommends leveraging the USA Triathlon Race Director database to find expertise, mentors and (of course) volunteers in your area.

Read the room.

“It’s about knowing your audience,” says Robinson. “That means knowing your participants, and adjusting accordingly.” She explains that for her larger events, athletes usually bring family members along with them – and these auxiliary attendees can be a great resource for volunteer shifts. Alternatively, when community members understand (and support) the impact that an event like this can have, they are more easily incentivized to get involved as a way to be a part of the magic.

“That’s what’s exciting to me about getting volunteers for these events we have going on,” explains Robinson. “It’s being able to adjust as needed, and supporting these communities every step of the way.”

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The Best Ways to Manage Local Volunteer Recruitment

We talk a lot about the value of local. We eat local. We buy local. And we know how important it is to recruit locally. What are the best ways to leverage the presence of local volunteers?

Reaching out to community organizations is essential to both enlisting enough volunteers and incorporating your event into the hosting community. Schools often have incentives for students to pursue volunteer opportunities. Certain sororities and fraternities have service built into their bylaws. Service-minded organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary Club, and Lions Club focus on community improvement and have great potential to partner with you.

By recruiting from a variety of entities, your volunteer base grows in diversity and gives you an effective snapshot of the city, suburb, or neighborhood you’re planning to reach. Each individual offers a unique understanding of the local context and can provide insight as to how to successfully tailor your event to the event location. Now let’s make the most of it!

Photo Credit: www.sweeneypr.com

1. Give Some Form

Before asking your volunteers about event details, gather as a staff to decide the aspects of your event that are most core to your mission and vision. You know your organization and its goals the best! List the qualities and methods that are central to who you are as an organization or to the event itself. These are your non-negotiables and therefore not up for discussion or debate with your volunteers. This may sound harsh, but by providing this structure before you talk with volunteers, the conversation remains focused and your volunteers better understand the overall goals of the event and organization.

2. Give Some Freedom

Now that your non-negotiables are in place, decide what is flexible! There is often a difference between “the way we’ve always done it” and “the way we should do it this time.” Your volunteers can help you bend and shift on these topics to maximize your overall effectiveness. Take a look at your logistical decisions, local marketing strategies, or any other areas that need to adapt to different locations, and bring in your volunteers! Utilize email surveys or plan volunteer forum opportunities. Identify key volunteers who seem most in-step with your work and invite them to planning meetings. It’s not wise to incorporate every idea, of course, but intentionally communicating with your volunteers helps you adapt to event locations and helps your volunteers invest in their work on a deeper level.

3. Get Some Feedback

While we strive to integrate great methods before the event, sometimes the best ideas come afterward. After an event, continue your volunteer communication to gather ways you succeeded and ways you can improve in the future. Keeping notes about what worked and what should be modified helps create an even better experience when you return and shows your volunteers that you’re listening!

Incorporating the voice of your volunteers may take patience and creativity, but the end result elevates your event from good to great.

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