Thursday, September 27, 2012

Are You Ready For Volunteers?

Every fledgling nonprofit eventually reaches a point where they are ready to start accepting volunteers into their organization. When that time comes, it's important that you are properly prepared for the work that comes from managing these individuals.

Gail Nyberg, executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, Canada, wrote in the book "Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies For Non-Profit Success" that there are five techniques organizations should use when they are dealing with their first volunteers.

  • Communicate clearly, broadly and often. Letting regular volunteers know what’s happening and making sure they understand how their efforts are furthering your work fosters a sense of engagement and keeps them coming back.
  • Understand and forecast your volunteer needs. A program should serve your organization and advance your mission, not accommodate every volunteer’s every wish.
  • Have clear and concise position descriptions. This can ensure genuine buy-in, with people signing up for what you need.
  • Train your staff in volunteer management. This is an opportunity for professional staff development by offering management training to employees who might not otherwise have the experience.
  • Institute a formal volunteer recognition process. Even small tokens of appreciation can add up to a system of rewards that acknowledge the people who make invaluable contributions to your organization.
Accepting the first volunteers can be a nerve-wracking experience for any nonprofit, but following the tips above will ensure that you have done everything you can to prepare. Have any other suggestions? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section.

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