Nonprofit organizations need volunteers...and lots of them. Finding and convincing volunteers can be a challenge. Your members WANT to help but may need a little encouragement to sign up.
Over the years, we’ve seen the good and the bad when it comes to recruiting volunteers. Avoid these 10 mistakes that we see made:
1) Do not stop recruiting. Continue recruiting. Every member you meet is a potential volunteer. If they have not helped in the past, maybe it was because they were waiting to be asked.
2) Do not expect all volunteers to have the same knowledge. Continuously train all volunteers. Explain expectations clearly. Supply volunteers with guidance manuals and resources for success. Buddy-up experienced volunteers with the newbies. This will help in training. The experienced volunteers will eventually outgrow the organization, leaving their replacements already in place.
3) Do not get stuck in a closed mindset. Volunteers hate to hear, “But it is always done this way!” While historical information may be useful, it might be time to consider new options. Volunteers can offer new energy and be very excited. Take time to listen, contemplate, and respond.
4) Do not depend on one person. Develop committees so that multiple people are involved and prepared for the event/program. What would happen if the lead fell ill or had to move away mid-year? Would the show still go on?
5) Do not stress-out your volunteers. Consider the scope of the volunteer job—is it too big for one person to handle? If so, consider splitting the duties or changing the position to reflect what your needs actually are. This might require a change in policy or guidelines.
6) Do not judge. First impressions and bias can sometimes cloud our judgement. Assume all volunteers are awesome. After all, they are spending their precious time volunteering. You will also have an opportunity to see that volunteer in action, which may help build future leadership as positions change yearly.
7) Do not get lazy. Always be willing to do the same tasks you are asking of others. Be sure to lead by example. Working alongside the volunteers will command more respect and will get the job done more efficiently.
8) Do not expect special treatment. As volunteers, we work for free. We are helping others, not ourselves. We should not flaunt our volunteerism or expect reward.
9) Do not assign a volunteer a task they cannot handle. We want our volunteers to be comfortable and feel competent in their task, both physically and mentally.
10) Do not forget to recognize your volunteers. Regardless of your budget, be sure to express appreciation by writing a thank you note, purchasing small token gifts, awarding a certificate, acknowledging volunteers on the marquee, or by making a personal phone call. The goal is to have your volunteer want to come back and help.
Keep your volunteers happy and the line of communications open and before long, you'll have a ready and willing pool of eager helpers!