As 2020 comes to a close, volunteer management leaders like you have to prepare for the upcoming year with improved engagement efforts, marketing strategies, and other ways to maximise your volunteers’ impact.
With a global pandemic putting a pause on face-to-face interactions and most traditional volunteer opportunities postponed or pivoted to online, it can certainly feel challenging to increase impact and meet new supporters.
However, maximising your volunteers’ impact is more than just recruiting new volunteers. It’s about making the most of the hours put in and the actions your volunteers take that further drive your organisation towards your mission.
This year, you and other charitable organisations have probably had to adapt to virtual volunteering and depend on online tools and platforms to facilitate your activities.
To ensure you are making the most of the solutions and resources available, it’s worth reviewing your current tactics and determining how to maximise volunteer impact best going into January.
From how you manage your volunteers to the opportunities you offer, this guide will walk you through some of the top tips to make the most of your volunteers’ efforts in 2021:
- Offer enticing virtual volunteer opportunities
- Develop a dedicated volunteer program
- Embrace volunteer management technology
- Let volunteers know of their impact
Ready to start this new year off with a bang and revitalise your volunteer supporters? Let’s begin.
1. Offer enticing virtual volunteer opportunities
Because of social distancing guidelines, you may have to rethink your more traditional volunteer events Even if your supporters get excited for your annual walkathon, for instance, and want to volunteer for the event, that might not be possible this year.
However, there are still virtual options that can instil similar passion in your volunteers. Many of your traditional events can even be pivoted to take place entirely online! To get a sense of the virtual opportunities that your volunteers might want to participate in, consider looking to your database for the experiences that are most popular.
For example, if in the past couple of months many volunteers were excited to phone bank for a particular advocacy campaign, consider a similar type of event for 2021.
Besides looking to your past for insight, try directly asking your supporters, as well. Send an email or physical survey to volunteers on what kind of events they’d like to see and any other suggestions or feedback.
While the opportunities you offer will depend on your unique mission, some popular (virtual) ones to consider for 2021 are:
- Phone or text banking
- Social media advertising
- Website design or support
- Data entry
- App development
- Hosting an online class or webinar
You might also think about what regular fundraising events you can turn virtual. From there, determine which ones may require volunteers to support the event digitally. Take a look at Handbid’s list of virtual fundraising ideas and see if any of them align with your goals and the skills of your volunteers.
2. Develop a dedicated volunteer program
A volunteer program can help centralise your efforts and improve how you recruit, engage with, and manage your volunteers. It’s also a key way to increase your overall volunteer impact!
With the right tools and careful planning, you can create a successful volunteer program that truly motivates supporters to give their all to your cause.
In times of uncertainty like now, a dedicated volunteer program can provide the necessary structure you need to interact with and manage your volunteers—especially if you need to do it entirely online.
Taking insight from Galaxy Digital’s guide to starting a volunteer program, here are the basic steps you will likely need to follow:
- Create a volunteer program mission statement.
- Establish volunteer program goals.
- Formulate a strategic plan.
- Develop and manage your relationships.
The guide linked can provide more into these steps, but this is the general path that all volunteer leaders usually take. When creating a program, the tools you use are crucial— it’s important to keep in mind that a streamlined volunteer process, from registration to check-in, will increase engagement and reduce your own organisation’s workload.
3. Embrace volunteer management technology
You’ve likely already dipped your toes into volunteer tech, if not fully investing in a comprehensive solution. Volunteer management software has proven to be a lifesaver this past year, especially since most of your engagements now take place online. With the right tools in your arsenal, you can automate time-consuming tasks and provide easy ways for your volunteers to track hours and check-in to events.
What should you have in your volunteer management toolkit? The essentials are:
- Hour tracking tool and volunteer hours log
- Volunteer scheduling tool
- Event creation and management capabilities
- Volunteer check-in/out tool
- Volunteer opportunity promotion
- Email and text messaging communication tools
When you have the tools to manage your virtual volunteers, it’s much easier to create valuable opportunities and track engagement over time.
If possible, invest in a comprehensive platform that can do it all, ensuring that all data points you track are centralised in one place. This way, you can review past performances and volunteer engagement metrics to better understand how to maximise impact for 2021.
4. Let volunteers know of their impact
Sometimes, the reason why volunteers don’t continue to support your organisation is that they just aren’t aware of their previous impact. It’s hard to conceptualise how your support has helped a cause when you don’t really understand the concrete impact that your actions have made.
That’s why it’s crucial that as soon as a volunteer has finished participating in one of your opportunities, you send an appreciation email. This should be a short summary of the task at hand, what the recipient accomplished, and an overall thank you for their support. However, this shouldn’t be where your communication stops.
Continue to let volunteers know of their impact with a follow-up email summarising the entire experience and its final impact on your cause. Use concrete examples and numbers to help explain this. For instance, you can say, “Thanks to the 5,000 phone calls that you and other volunteers helped make, we were able to convince the city council to reconsider passing their new legislation.”
In order to get these concrete numbers, look to your volunteer management database. How you organise your volunteer data is significant, especially if you want to effectively demonstrate impact to your supporters.
Consider even compiling annual or monthly reports on your organisation’s progress and sending those to your volunteers in a digestible and easy to read PDF. This and other data management strategies can ensure that volunteers stick with your organisation and are further invested in your cause.
Starting the new year with the above tips in mind will surely set your volunteers up for success and help you maximise their impact.
But if there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, is that we can’t predict everything. Make sure that, throughout it all, you have a dependable volunteer management solution and database to help you track your organisation’s progress and volunteer engagement.
With data-driven strategies and decisions, you’re sure to succeed. Good luck!
Author bio: Addison Waters is a Content Writer at Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for managing, tracking, and engaging volunteerism. Addison holds a Master of Creative Writing from Durham University. Say hi on LinkedIn!