Raising money for a non-profit is hard, but with the right tools it can be done (see joyful.gives for more info) but recruiting, organizing, and keeping volunteers can be an even bigger challenge.

Volunteers are an integral part of any nonprofit organization. Next to funding (and fundraising), attracting volunteers should be a high priority. Not only are volunteers a free workforce, but getting people who are passionate to be part of your organization will help in every aspect of your organization.

Whether your nonprofit is an animal shelter, established to help protect the environment, has a goal toward medical research, is education-based, or any other virtuous goal, volunteers can help get the work done: walking dogs, building websites, helping with social media, creating flyers, running events, giving tours, cleaning roadways, tutoring children, and any other task you need, including helping with fundraising.

Attracting them, keeping them engaged, and utilizing their strengths is important. If you can easily recruit volunteers, how can you utilize their best talents, keep them engaged, and keep their passion for your project fresh? We’ve outlined some ways to help you manage your volunteers.

How to Attract Volunteers

Since volunteers aren’t paid, it may be a bit more difficult to get people to answer the call, so you have to find a way to share your strengths, advertise your needs, and show them how integral they are to you.

Give them a way to join you.

We’ve worked with and helped thousands of nonprofit organizations with fundraising. We’ve seen their websites. One thing we’ve noticed is that many are missing a call for volunteers with a form to fill out indicating interest in helping. It’s the easiest way for people to inquire, yet many forget to include it. Having a phone number is helpful, too, but some people would rather communicate digitally before they pick up a phone.

In addition to having a form on your site, list specific tasks or roles that you need to fill. Someone seeing a specific need that they know how to fulfill is more likely to volunteer than not knowing how they might fit in.

Use social media to recruit volunteers.

You have built a following through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (or other social media), so use it to reach out and ask for volunteers. Post occasional recruiting posts, listing specific roles and needs. Ask your followers to share out to their networks as well to gain better reach. Include a graphic or photo that can help attract attention, use appropriate hashtags, and make sure to direct any interested party back to your website to complete the interest form.

Use your blog.

Use blog posts to highlight your volunteers. Show photos of volunteers in action. Interview them. Ask them why they enjoy volunteering, what they do, and more about themselves. Show the human side of your volunteers and how they fit into your organization. At the bottom of each of these posts, share a link back to your interest form with an appeal for more volunteers.

Use your newsletter.

Post your needs in your newsletter. You already ask for donations of funds and other needs, so why not ask for volunteers to help, too? Your newsletter should be reaching donors (who are already engaged and cheerleaders for you) who may have a few hours here and there to volunteer. Those who already know and love you are more likely to volunteer, so tell them why you need them and how.

How to Keep Volunteers

Use their time, talents, and energy strategically.

People volunteer so that they can help your organization. They want their time to count, and they want to do things that are useful, using talents and skills that they can contribute. It’s all about putting people into the right tasks. Allow your volunteers to use their strengths, and you’ll have happy people willing to put in the effort.

Many people have multiple talents, so be sure to ask them what they enjoy, and what they want to do to help. You can present volunteers with a list of needed tasks and allow them to gravitate toward what makes them feel fulfilled. Giving of time and talent is what volunteers are ready to do, so make sure you match them up with appropriate projects, but make sure to keep them busy, too.

The worst thing you can do is ask someone to volunteer then not give them tasks to do. Even if the task they are assigned isn’t active (like the example below), make sure there are always projects that your volunteers can help with. From stuffing envelopes to painting signs, as long as your volunteers are busy, they will have a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

“I once volunteered as a docent for a small museum. If there were no visitors, I just sat there wasting time. No one wants to waste their time. I drove 35 minutes each direction, and for a 4-hour shift. If there were no visitors during that time, I would just sit and read, but I could have done that at home without the travel and gas. I would have happily filed, stuffed envelopes, swept up, weeded flower gardens, etc.”

Michelle Frechette

Your volunteers are eager to help, so give them a way to do that.

Show appreciation.

Since you don’t pay volunteers in money, pay them in gratitude. There are many ways to show them how appreciated they are. Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a “Volunteer of the Month” and post their photo with why you are thankful for them.
  • Spotlight volunteers on your website. Add blog posts where you showcase what they do to help you move forward and why you are so glad they are part of the organization.
  • Create certificates of gratitude and give them out.
  • Hold an annual luncheon or happy hour where you thank them as a group. Give out fun awards that show you know who they are as individuals.
  • Do you have a store (online or brick and mortar) associated with your organization? Give your volunteers a discount or a store credit.
  • Put out snacks and beverages where they are working for you.
  • Never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you note.
  • Give your volunteers a way to provide feedback, then thank them for their thoughts, and find ways to incorporate their ideas where possible.
  • Share about your volunteers – by name – in your social media. A public thank you goes a million miles.

Never take volunteers for granted. Make them feel useful and appreciated, and you will have loyal volunteers who will help you further your organization’s mission.


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