Running a nonprofit is hard work. And it often means working hard for longer hours and with fewer resources. To the understaffed nonprofit, volunteers are like manna from heaven. They come alongside your organizational and take up your banner for zero compensation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, volunteering is at a ten year low. If your nonprofit is seeing fewer volunteers, here are a few tips on attracting and maintaining the help you need to fulfill your mission.
Ask for help
Sometimes in life, you’ve got to go for the ask. You may have trouble attracting volunteers because people don’t know that you need their help. And if you advertise in a general call for volunteers, people may assume someone else will answer the call or may believe they are not qualified. Asking people directly and specifically telling them how they can help can increase your volunteer staff. Here’s a great website that can help find volunteers that support your type of cause. (www.voly.org)
Use people’s gifts
Every nonprofit has a million and one things to do on any given day. And most of those day-to-day needs aren’t glamorous. Even so, it’s important to staff volunteers according to their strengths. It will help your organization by putting a qualified person in the right position and the volunteer may feel more satisfied knowing their unique skill sets are contributing to the cause. And don’t feel obligated to take on volunteers that are not qualified for the job.
Many times potential volunteers show up looking to get their feet wet and they get pulled under by the tidal wave of opportunities. It’s not that the volunteer isn’t dedicated to the cause, but they want to realistically see how they can make volunteering a part of their life. If their first experience is too traumatic, overwhelming or burdensome, you may never see them again.
Once you have a faithful volunteer, it’s easy to rely too heavily on one person. They are dedicated and have proven that they can handle whatever you throw at them. But everyone can experience burn out and it’s a lot easier to experience it when you have no financial compensation to keep you motivated. Even though volunteers are motivated by the work itself, they also have lives, families and careers of their own. Keeping these things in mind can prevent us from taking advantage of good people with big hearts.
There are no words to describe the level of gratitude you have for your volunteers but make sure they know what they mean to your organization. If your volunteers do feel unqualified, overwhelmed or burnt out, sometimes a simple “thank you” can reignite their passion. Everyone wants to know their hard work is appreciated.
Tell us how your organization attracts, organizes and shows appreciation for volunteers.