Volunteers are key resources for many nonprofits. They support your mission and can bring valuable skills to your organization, becoming a positive addition to your culture. They provide great new ideas, strong operational support, and can-do attitudes.
Sometimes nonprofits struggle with the best ways to utilize volunteers. How do we take advantage of these valuable resources and also provide a positive and beneficial experience to them?
Orientation is important, as is ongoing coaching.
Every new volunteer should receive a thorough orientation and be assigned a point person. The point person leads the orientation process and is also the volunteer’s coach for the first month. The volunteer works in a single business unit during that time. It’s important to make sure he or she has a “warm” contact who can help with the orientation.
The new volunteer should also receive documents covering basic procedure and operations.
Each volunteer should have a weekly meeting with a manager or his or her business unit and have someone available to answer their questions. As volunteers move forward in their work with you, continue to maintain open communication, to watch how people are progressing, and to make any adjustments based on their abilities, execution of tasks, attitudes, and specific areas where they would like to grow.
It can be hard for smaller organizations, where people often play multiple roles, to provide a clear point of contact, someone who has time to invest in volunteers.
It is crucial to provide each volunteer with a defined manager who communicates with him or her and provides direction and feedback, doing all you can to help them succeed as much as possible.
All of this does take time. Beautiful time, time to listen, develop, encourage people. To help them reach their goals—and to reach yours. They need coaching and directing. Time is one of your most valuable resources, and this is one of the most important ways we can spend it.