What we cover in this article:
- What volunteer engagement is
- Tactics to engage your volunteers
- How to measure your success
What is volunteer engagement?
Volunteer engagement is the sum of how involved and how invested your volunteers are. These people enable your organization to reach its goals and represent your organization to the public. How involved and invested they are, should be high on your list of concerns. When your volunteers thrive, your programs thrive.
What does an engaged volunteer look like?
- They show up on time and serve cheerfully
- They volunteer as consistently as they originally committed to
- They are emotionally invested in the success of your program
- They show a passion for your mission
- They recruit friends and family
How much impact your programs could have if the majority of volunteers aligned with this list? That is why focusing on volunteer engagement is important.
Tactics for engaging volunteers
Now that we have defined volunteer engagement and discussed why it is important, let's talk about what you can do to boost it.
Your volunteers might be everything to you, but volunteering is probably not everything to them. They might not think about it a whole lot outside of their time serving. That is something you want to change by remaining in consistent contact with them. There are a few different avenues that you can use to do this.
- Social media
- If you stay at the top of people's feeds, you will also stay at the top of their minds. We wrote a blog article to help you with your social media strategy and it has tons of post ideas for nonprofits).
- Likewise, staying at the top of people's inboxes will remind them of you! Newsletters are a great way to 'stay in touch', send updates, and let people know what your needs are.
- WhoCanBeThere reaches out to volunteers on your organization's behalf to fill your open spots. This is an easy way to stay in touch with your volunteers and let them know how they can get involved.
- Whether a quick text or handwritten, a thank you can go a long way. Nothing is more motivating as a volunteer than to know that you are appreciated and make a difference.
Send reminders before shifts
No-show volunteers are frustrating for you, and volunteers who feel horrible for missing their commitment. Send reminders before shifts to ensure that your people show up when you need them; help volunteers be engaged rather than forgetful. Additionally, reminders provide accountability. Reminders do not have to add extra work onto your plate. WhoCanBeThere sends reminders automatically, with your timing preferences!
If volunteers are not placed in the right role or prepared, they will feel self-conscious and ineffective during their time serving. You can prevent this by intentionally matching your volunteers with roles that are great fits for them and conducting thorough training.
Asking for input from your volunteers shows that you value them and their opinions. Implementing their feedback gives you the opportunity to reciprocate the support that they have shown you. Conduct volunteer feedback surveys to improve your programs and deepen the relationships with your volunteers.
Show your volunteers that they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves. They are not an island, they are part of a like-minded, passionate community. Get your volunteer teams together for the sole purpose of bonding and fun. Building relationships will further invest your volunteers into your organization and mission.
Team bonding ideas:
- Eat a meal together and play games
- Do an escape room challenge
- Go to a local trivia night
- Host a book club
- Go to an indoor climbing wall
- Watch an outdoor movie
How to measure your success
Too many organizations focus on recruitment, while neglecting retention. Volunteer retention is your organization's ability to maintain volunteer's involvement over a period of time. A higher retention rate means that your volunteers stay for a relatively long time. The national average for volunteer retention rates is around 65%. This means that 2 out of every 3 volunteers stay engaged with an organization. 65% is a good benchmark to be at or above. A 100% retention rate is not a reasonable goal; even the most passionate volunteers sometimes need to leave for reasons apart from your organization.
Frequency of volunteering
How often do people serve on average, and does it align with what they originally committed to do? If people are serving less than they committed to, you might have a retention problem. This is a number you want to watch, as it is a good indicator of volunteer program health.
Total number of volunteers
How many people serve with you, and is this number growing? This is the least indicative metric, but still worth keeping track of over time
Social media metrics
Social media metrics can prove your communities awareness and how engaged they are with your organization. A lot of these metrics are unimportant in the long run, however, it is still beneficial to strive for a growing number of interactions.
Volunteers that are engaged are effective. They will stay with your organization for a long time. Non-profits should focus on volunteer retention as much as they focus on recruitment.