If you work for a nonprofit or some other non-commercial project, chances are you need help. I’m not talking about the kind of help where you lay on the couch and describe the imagery of your dreams. I’m talking about help from Volunteers, those beautiful people who give their time, energy, creativity and expertise to help make your vision happen.
But working with Volunteers can be tricky. These are people who give you the gift of their time, and it means something different to almost everyone. Volunteers also give their skill, their passion and their energy. That’s a lot. So it’s important to be sure your project or organization is giving back to them as well. Here are some tips:
Always ask your Volunteers what they are interested in doing – Usually folks have an idea of what they would like to do. To keep a Volunteer interested, they have to enjoy what they are doing. Some people who have very stressful jobs, like to do mindless tasks. Others volunteer because they want a challenge. Find out what they really want to get out of the experience.
Volunteering is an opportunity for both of you – Give your Volunteers the opportunity to expand their skills and experience. Many Volunteers are willing to be trained to do new things that help develop their skill set. Find out what your Volunteers want to learn, and if you can, teach them how to do those things.
Don’t ask a volunteer to use the same skills that they use at work – Most volunteers offer to help for a change of pace. Nobody wants to feel like they are going to a second job when they volunteer. If a Volunteer offers their regular work skills, great! If not, respect that. Your Volunteer will really appreciate it.
Be appreciative – Always thank your Volunteer for giving their time. Offer to acknowledge their work on your Thank You/Acknowledgment page of your website and/or newsletter. Offer to write a recommendation based on the work they do for you. Use Social Media to praise their contribution, but always ask first. Some people like to volunteer on the down low.
Be respectful of time – This should go without saying. Do not make Volunteers wait for you. Have work lined up and ready to go. Also be realistic about how much can be done in the amount of time a Volunteer has to give.
Socialize – One great way to build cohesion with Volunteers is to give them a chance to socialize with staff and other Volunteers. Invite Volunteers to your organization’s social events or throw a party in their honor.