By Mary Moss, Founding Partner.
April is National Volunteer Month, and we are celebrating the strengths and talents of volunteers with our clients and in our social media. Volunteers are not supplemental, or nice to have; they are essential and foundational to a nonprofit’s mission delivery.
In 1981, my first fundraising job was to recruit student volunteers at Duke University to fill 18 slots a night throughout the year for the first Dialing for Duke telethons. Duke’s Annual Fund grew exponentially from this personal touch from students to alumni. Four decades later, I can report that every effort I have led as a staff member or volunteer, or guided as a consultant, has found its success through committed volunteers. The real magic happens when you build a strong staff-volunteer partnership with shared goals resulting in a cadre of legacy volunteers, who will return time and time again to support your cause. Recent statistics say one out of every four Americans volunteers, and we know that volunteers are also more likely to donate.
Volunteers add value, both intrinsic and tangible, to any fundraising effort or nonprofit program. A volunteer management plan written according to these five key guidelines will help you and your volunteers be more successful:
- A volunteer’s passion is unquestioned. Typically, a volunteer brings a personal connection to the mission and can speak directly to the nonprofit’s impact.
- Volunteers are a precious resource and valuable asset. Volunteers are essentially part of the workforce in many nonprofits and fill important staff-like roles that also save the organization money on already stretched budgets. They can help speak peer-to-peer when raising money or recruiting volunteers for annual and capital campaigns or for programs.
- Volunteers need training and managing. Invest time and resources up front to write a plan for volunteers. Volunteers need clear job descriptions and specific staff contacts for timely communication, clear direction, and management. Forgetting this step will result in mutual disappointment.
- Volunteers should be valued, recognized, and motivated to continue. Show volunteers you respect and care about their role in the organization by telling them how much you appreciate them with personal notes and calls, and creating spotlights, testimonials, and awards. This will in turn motivate them to continue their work. Are you tracking and publicizing the number of volunteer hours annually? Funders, other leaders, and volunteers will take pride in this number.
- Encourage your employees to volunteer. Create a structure that makes sense in your organization to provide time to volunteer. This will demonstrate you value everyone’s ability to volunteer.
Design an experience that creates legacy volunteers, which over the long haul can be more valuable than legacy gifts. Call moss+ross if you need help creating a volunteer management plan so you can experience the magic they bring to your mission. In closing, here are two quotes that I hold dear when I think about the role of volunteers.
“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Winston Churchill
“Everybody can be great. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.