Posts Tagged ‘volunteer retention’

Let Volunteers Know You Care

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

volunteerscreeningblogMaking your valuable volunteers feel valued is important. But with so much on your to-do list, and no money in your budget, it’s far too easy to let it slide. Even the most appreciative managers forget to properly thank their volunteers.

Fortunately, letting volunteers know you care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Besides, you get so much bang for your buck! Volunteers who feel valued report a higher level of satisfaction with their volunteer duties. Happy volunteers mean less turnover.

Here are some low-cost ways to show your appreciation, and make volunteers happy:

  • Find out what their favorite candy or other treats are. A bar of dark chocolate or bag of peanuts might not cost much, but could mean a great deal to a volunteer.
  • Feature them in a newsletter. Shining a spotlight on a volunteer is a great way to build awareness (when they share with their friends), while making them feel great! Plus, volunteer stories help connect your readers to your organization. You’re always looking for newsletter material, right?
  • Send a thank-you note with a coffee card. A $5.00 gift card to a local coffee shop is a low-cost way to show appreciation, but a heartfelt expression will be remembered long after the latte is gone!
  • Bring in ice cream and toppings for a midday sundae break. Or invite everyone to have lunch together, which can be as simple as delivery pizza or homemade soup.
  • Create a “Wall of Fame,” listing volunteers’ names where everyone can see it.

Easy Ways to Keep Your Volunteers

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

volunteer, screening, background checkOnce you recruit and screen volunteers for your organization, it’s important to hold on to them. A steady volunteer staff helps the organization run more smoothly, saves time and resources, and helps promote your cause in the community.

Here are five ways to keep good volunteers:

  1. Put out the welcome mat. Welcome your volunteers and demonstrate that you’re glad they’re there, whether it’s their first day or their 101st day. Taking volunteers for granted is too easy to do. Trouble is, it’s no secret. They can feel it—and it’s a sure way to demoralize them.
  2. Include volunteers in the mission. Help them feel like they are part of the greater good. Explain their role and how it helps to serve your clients or cause.
  3. Show appreciation. Say “thank you” at every opportunity. And do a little more when possible. Throw a party, bring in cupcakes or send notes and cards. Everyone wants to be appreciated—especially when they’re giving of themselves and their time.
  4. Speaking of time, respect it. Volunteers often worry that the spare hour of time they can give is not enough. Or, that if they offer an hour, you’ll take two. Find ways to make things work for time-strapped volunteers. Do you have tasks that can be completed in one-, two- or three-hour segments? Let people know, and then don’t let them exceed the given time. Send them home with a smile.
  5. Be open to suggestions. You don’t have to let a volunteer tell you how to run your organization. However, many have rich work experience that could improve your processes and procedures. At least give volunteers the respect of listening to their suggestions.

It’s not easy to see a good volunteer leave, but don’t encourage it by failing to do the simple things that can really work to keep them happy!

Watch Out For Signs Of Volunteer Burnout

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

volunteer background checkIf you’re like most non profit organizations, you have all kinds of volunteers: enthusiastic and boisterous, or quietly committed. You have volunteers who are good at one thing and those who are good at many things. And you probably have some who don’t know their limits.

Before you lose valuable volunteers to burnout, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the signs of volunteer burnout—and how to prevent it.

  1. Volunteers are not happy. Check in often to make sure your volunteers are still enjoying their work. Remember, they’re not getting paid, so satisfaction is important to keep volunteers engaged. If they’re not having fun, it may be time for a break.
  2. Your volunteers are worried about getting their work done or missing deadlines. Pressure is not good for anyone. If your volunteers are stressed out about their workload, you could lose them fast. Find ways to spread out the work.
  3. Your volunteers are irritable with fellow volunteers, or even worse—with clients. This is a sure sign of burnout, and it can have serious consequences. Any volunteer who is resentful of staff, clients and fellow volunteers to the point of becoming bad-tempered is in need of a talking to. Find out what’s bothering him or her, and offer a new position or leave of absence.
  4. The laughter and positive atmosphere has disappeared. Listen to your volunteers as they work and interact with each other. Do you hear laughter and light conversation? Or do you hear snapping, heavy sighs or nothing at all?

Usually, the best volunteers, whose dedication and work ethic leads them to overdo it, are more susceptible to burnout. Keep the lines of communication open and check in often with all of your volunteers. Insist on a break for those who have been working too much or are starting to show signs of wear. And remember to show your appreciation often. Sometimes, a “thank you” is all a volunteer needs to hear to replenishment their motivation.

How to Get Your Volunteers on Board

Friday, January 20th, 2012

prescreening volunteers, volunteer background checkYou’ve successfully recruited and brought on some new volunteers for your nonprofit organization. Before you put them right to work, take some time to bring them up to speed. They’ll be happier – and so will you. And they might even stick around longer, too.

No matter what position you put your new volunteer in, you can’t assume they know how to do the work you expect from them. Other new volunteers come into a non-profit with great enthusiasm and ideas, and anxious to do a good job. Without clear direction, they may start making improvements or changes without understanding the organization. Both of these situations can lead to conflict.

A better approach is to invest some time to help new volunteers get off to a good start. Allow them to get to know your organization, meet paid and volunteer staff, ask questions and shadow other workers to see how things are done. Encourage them to observe the culture.

  • While you’re working with new volunteers, make sure they hear about the “unwritten rules.” If whoever takes the last cup of coffee is supposed to make another pot, be sure they know that. If everyone brings in snacks on board meeting day, pass that along, as well as rules covering perfume, parking, and other etiquette issues.
  • Designate a mentor for each new volunteer—someone they can go to when they have question or problems. Between yourself and the mentor, demonstrate what success at your organization looks like, so the new volunteer knows has a clear picture to work toward.
  • Let your new volunteers take their time becoming oriented and integrating into your non-profit. Schedule a weekly 10-minute meeting for the first month, to check in and make sure they feel comfortable.

Putting in some extra time up front with your volunteers will pay off in higher productivity, less turnover, better morale and easier volunteer recruiting.

Count on for your volunteer prescreening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with volunteer background checks.

Volunteer Holiday Party Ideas for Small Budgets

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkShowing your volunteers that you appreciate their service shouldn’t be reserved for the holiday season. But the holidays are the perfect time to kick back a little bit and enjoy each other’s company. Why not treat your volunteers to a party—even if you have a very small budget? After all, with the tough times you’ve all been through in the past few years, you deserve a celebration.

Five Best Small Budget Volunteer Party Ideas

  1. Recruit friends and family to help. Do you know a DJ who’d be willing to play some music for the party? Have a catering contact who might want to give you some food for the cause? How about the owners of your local bowling alley—would they give you a few lanes for an afternoon of fun for your volunteers? Keep in mind that certain business owners might be donation-weary by this time of year, so try asking a few who haven’t donated to your non-profit for awhile.
  2. Host a potluck at your house. Having your volunteers in your home is personal and special. The best parties are often those where everyone provides their favorite dish. Sure, it’s a little more work for you, but you won’t have to prepare all the food; and it’s a very inexpensive option.
  3. Remember to say thank you. Would a local business owner provide small thank you gifts or gift cards for your volunteers? Even a $5 coffee card or movie passes can mean a lot—especially when accompanied by a thoughtful, hand-written note.
  4. If you have a budget for your party, you can save money by having a daytime event. Think lunch instead of dinner. Do your volunteers like Mexican food? Asian? These options are often inexpensive. The challenge could be in finding a cuisine that everyone likes and that caters to a variety of food allergies and preferences.
  5. Don’t spend money on decorations. Stop by any Christmas tree lot and ask for cuttings. They’ll have plenty you can use to deck the halls with fragrance and natural beauty.

It’s not difficult to host a great volunteer party on a small budget. Try these tips to make it special and an event your volunteers will long remember.

Empower Volunteers for More Productivity

Friday, July 29th, 2011

volunteer screening volunteer credit checkMost volunteer coordinators say that volunteers are their most valuable assets. Nurturing and looking after assets is important to keep them from slipping away. So how do you take care of volunteers? Are they slipping away, despite your best efforts?

Taking care of your volunteers can pay off in higher rates of productivity and retention. One trick is to channeling their creativity, talent and experience—and that takes real leadership. So does realizing that your volunteers might be smarter than you. Most non-profit organizations have volunteers from all sorts of backgrounds, like retired business executives, teachers, accountants, lawyers—people with top-level talent and plenty of brainpower.

  1. When you see real talent and valuable experience in your volunteers, give them the freedom to do what they do best, and don’t micromanage. Get out of their way and you might be amazed at the ideas they come up with.
  2. If the organization is facing a problem, ask for help or advice from your experienced volunteers. There is no rule saying that you must follow it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Whether or not a volunteer’s advice meet your needs, giving people the freedom to contribute to the organization does wonders for their self-worth, gives them a reason to keep volunteering and can result in solid new ideas for problem-solving.
  3. Consider asking for ideas from a number of volunteers, or putting together a brainstorming session to address a problem. You may soon have a number of “what if” scenarios around the table. One of them could be the solution you decide to go for. Collective problem solving can be a great way to harness and leverage the talent of your volunteers, while making them feel valued and productive.

Leadership means educating volunteers about why their roles are important. But it also means matching them with jobs that matter to them personally. Taking care of volunteers by involving them in tasks that use their talents, creativity and intelligence is a great way to keep them engaged and make your organization more successful.

When Volunteers Come Knocking on Your Door

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkThe U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its “Volunteering in America” report this week, which revealed that overall volunteerism declined in 2010 by .5 percent.

But in some regions, the economic climate has fostered a booming number of volunteers for charitable organizations. The BLS report indicates that about 13 million of the 62.8 million adults who donated time to organizations from September 2009 to September 2010 were unemployed or working part time.

It makes sense that unemployed people and part-time workers would be more inclined to volunteer because they have more time. The spike has been beneficial to many organizations. In Kansas City, the Humane Society has seen a big increased in volunteers who came knocking on the door. They didn’t have to recruit any of this new group, because they are all unemployed and looking for productive ways to fill their time.

Former workaholics who can’t sit home being unemployed are turning to charities as an outlet for their energy. Others are reaching out to nonprofits to increase their networking opportunities, update their skills and find job leads. One nonprofit executive director said there is only one problem with volunteers who find jobs through their volunteer activities—they tend to go away.

In the meantime, nonprofits are receiving hundreds of hours of valuable time, along with outreach and marketing advice, financial planning, foreign language interpretation services and a host of professional services they could not otherwise afford.

It’s a win-win for the volunteers, as well. When they do line up a job interview, they might find employers are often impressed to see the gaps in their resumes filled with volunteer activities.

So if you have an influx of unemployed folks wanting to volunteer with your organization, consider it a stroke of luck that may or may not last, depending on the economy. Proper orientation, training, evaluations and engagement will go a long way to ensuring your new volunteers stick around—even if they do find a job!

Training Your New Volunteers

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

volunteerscreeningblogIf folks start making good on their New Years’ resolutions, your phone could start ringing with new volunteers looking for opportunities to help your nonprofit in 2011.

Volunteer managers know that, it’s most important to interview prospective volunteers, and then run background checks to ensure you don’t bring anyone with a criminal past into contact with employees, clients or other volunteers.

What’s next? Training.
Proper training can make the difference between volunteers who enjoy their service and stick around and those who stop showing up after a couple of days.

When conducting volunteer training, remember to start with the paperwork—yours! You’ll need to plan before implementing any type of training program, so take out your laptop, notepad, or tablet computer and develop a plan using these tips:

  1. Develop goals or expectations for each volunteer role. This will help you fit the right person with the right job.
  2. Find out what your volunteers need from you. Listen carefully and incorporate their wishes into their role. Also, ask your volunteers about their motivations. Some may just want to keep busy, while others feel a desire to give back to others. Still others might want the interaction of seeing and talking with people during the day. If a volunteer just wants to help and stay behind the scenes, you’ll want to find tasks that accomplish that goal. For an extrovert who loves interacting with people, try to avoid assigning tasks like filing or mopping floors.
  3. Be sure to incorporate information about your nonprofit organization into your training plan. Don’t assume the volunteers know the mission, purpose and funding source of the organization. Share with them as much information as you can, so they can spread the word about the good your NPO does in the community.
  4. Use the buddy system to teach new volunteers exactly how they should do their jobs. Pair them with a staff member or current volunteer, but don’t let them start their new job until you’ve supervised and approved them to begin. Remember, some volunteers will need more training than others.

The Importance of a Volunteer Strategy

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

volunteerscreeningblog.comEvery non profit organization (NPO) needs a volunteer strategy. Whether it’s for recruiting board members or office helpers, a plan is essential to finding, retaining, and training volunteers. And, it can make the volunteer manager or executive director’s job much easier!

Why should NPOs have a volunteer strategy?

Volunteer strategies allow volunteer programs to run more smoothly. Planning is the first step to any successful endeavor. If your NPO is embarking on a volunteer program without a plan, it could fail, putting the entire organization further behind on its goals.

  • They make recruiting volunteers much easier. A volunteer strategy should identify the best-fit volunteers for the organization, including demographic information (age, gender, occupation, residence, etc.), level of involvement and needed skills. Once the various groups of potential volunteers are identified, it is much easier to find them, reach them, and recruit them.
  • To help focus orientation and training efforts: A well-trained volunteer is a better volunteer. Defining roles, supplying job descriptions, and identifying staff or volunteer trainers is essential to properly orienting and training volunteers. How can training be accomplished correctly—and replicated—without planning?
  • To keep volunteers engaged and help avoid burnout. Another important aspect to volunteer strategy is retention. It’s usually not a good idea to recruit volunteers and then ignore them. Keeping them interested in the mission of the NPO, demonstrating appreciation, and soliciting their feedback are all vital pieces to the retention puzzle. And there are many more—which should be explored when creating a volunteer strategy.
  • To enable NPOs to develop leaders out of volunteers. If an NPO’s executive or volunteer director is not focused on the volunteer strategy, there is a huge potential for loss, both in the simple numbers of volunteers (who are not being successfully retained) and in the loss of potential leadership. When a strategy has been established, everyone is more focused. Seeing the leadership qualities in volunteers becomes an everyday thing. And those who could help take the NPO closer to its goals will not fall by the wayside, unnoticed and underappreciated.

Every businessperson knows the importance of planning for the future and strategizing on how to get there. The non profit sector can take this page out of the business playbook and use it to successfully run volunteer programs!

Great Ideas to Show Volunteer Appreciation

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

volunteer screening blogOur previous volunteer retention post touched on an important aspect of keeping volunteers happy and productive—give them recognition and appreciation more often.

If you’re like many volunteer managers, you are always searching for creative—and inexpensive—new ways to recognize your volunteers. Whether you’re tiring of the standard “thank-you” banquet, or you just need some quick and easy ways to demonstrate your appreciation, here are several ideas that might just work for you!

Go beyond doughnuts: Sure, picking up doughnuts or bagels on your way into the office is pretty easy—and it’s always welcomed by staff and volunteers, right? Well, considering how many of them could be on gluten-free, sugar-free or weight-loss diets, maybe not. As an alternative, try stopping by your grocery store’s salad bar, and create a nice platter of fresh fruit and vegetables. Most everyone loves strawberries in spring and melon in summer, and it’s a healthy, sweet treat that won’t break anyone’s dietary restrictions. And they’ll know you appreciate them, too!

Give a book: As an alternative to plaques, why not give a gift that will be used and enjoyed, rather than gathering dust? A book that mirrors your nonprofit organization’s mission, interest, or purpose will bring even more meaning. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Historical organizations:   America’s Historic Places
  • Animal Welfare:    The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • Social Services:    The Women of Hull House
  • Volunteering in general:    Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul
  • Education:    Three Cups of Tea

Keep it Relaxed: Instead of a formal affair at an expensive venue, throw a casual volunteer thank-you party at your house—or one of your board member’s homes. Fire up the Bar-b-Que, order a simple meal from a wonderful caterer, or prepare some homemade soups and breads. If you have a specialty dish you can prepare, even better—the personal touch and effort will not go unnoticed by your volunteers. Just give everyone the opportunity to relax and socialize in an informal setting.

Who needs sun? Bring a day of sunshine to the office in the middle of winter. Party stores usually stock beach-theme favors, so pick up a bunch of sand pails and fill them with goodies. Inexpensive sunglasses, bottles of bubbles, Frisbees, and water squirters, plus an ice cream sundae bar are sure to bring out the kid in all your volunteers.

And in addition to these great ideas, here’s another—and it’s the most effective, least expensive one: be sure to say “thank you” often and loudly to each and every volunteer.