Recruiting, engaging and managing volunteers can be challenging for a nonprofit, but organizations that do so successfully have been found to run on a significantly smaller budget. Beyond repeatedly thanking them for their service, how do you retain the best? And how do you help develop the rest?
- Assess their knowledge. Are there areas of expertise that your volunteer leaders lack, such as legal, human resources, technology or fund development? Does everyone agree on the current leaders’ effectiveness? Consider doing an internal gap analysis or have a third-party assessment done. Share the results during a strategy session on how to fill any gaps. With all the notetaking that will need to be done, portfolios and Sticky Memo Sets are great gifts ideas.
- Find corporate partners. According to the 2015 Community Involvement Study, almost 70 percent of businesses offer some form of nonprofit board placement programs to employees. Many will provide leadership training to make sure their employees are ready to be engaged volunteers. This helps the businesses by improving employee satisfaction and by increasing visibility in the community. A promo planter makes a great calling card when you reach out to companies about possibly working together. Thank companies that handle leadership training by giving them a Crystal Tower Star Award.
- Train at every opportunity. Take 15 minutes at the beginning of each meeting to hold a mini training session on a rotating list of topics. Call upon experts to lend a hand, either from your leadership team or from outside the organization. Make the training meaningful, but fun, by handing out boxes of chocolate almonds and aluminum sport bottles to keep them happy and hydrated!
- Make a game of training. Training is serious business, but during longer sessions or at leadership retreats, break things up with interactive games or activities. Divide into teams to test each other’s knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order (or Bourinot’s Rules of Order, if you want to go the extra-Canadian route), or legal issues. Reward teams with stress relievers or Keychains.
Periodic volunteer appreciation gifts will also help with retention and encourage regular participation. Leadership volunteers are a tremendous asset to your nonprofit organization. Make sure your board and committee members are educated and feel valued, and they’ll be begging for more ways to help!
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