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8 min read

4 Creative Volunteer Engagement Strategies To Try Now

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Dedicated volunteers give your nonprofit the momentum to move its mission forward. With their time, talents, and energy, your volunteers help you complete projects, raise money, and make a difference in the lives of your beneficiaries.

This is why it’s critical to engage your volunteers to make them feel valued and motivated to work with your organization. But to do so, you’ll need some creative strategies. In this post, we’ll go over some of our favorites:

  1. Offer a variety of volunteer opportunities.
  2. Optimize your website to be a useful volunteer tool.
  3. Invite your volunteers to donate to your cause.
  4. Set up a volunteer recognition program.

As you implement these volunteer engagement strategies, you’ll not only have an easier time retaining your volunteers, but also be able to more effectively market your volunteer program and recruit more people to help out with your work. Let’s go!

1. Offer a variety of volunteer opportunities.


If you offer a variety of volunteer opportunities with flexible time commitments, then you can attract more volunteers, including those with busy schedules. Plus, by promoting a wide range of opportunities, you can encourage volunteers to get involved with your organization in multiple different ways.

Here are a few ideas for the different types of opportunities you might offer in addition to regular, in-person, shift-based volunteer work:

  • Virtual volunteering: Is there work that your volunteers can do from the comfort of their own homes using a computer or mobile device? For example, your volunteers might be able to conduct online research, help out with virtual programming, or assist you with your social media content.
  • On-call volunteering: If an emergency or short-term, high-priority project arises, have a team of volunteers that you know you can count on to pitch in. For this type of volunteering, be clear about the expectations for projects that need immediate help so that volunteers understand what they’re signing up for.
  • Seasonal volunteering: Your nonprofit may need more help at certain times of the year than others. For example, your nonprofit might host a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless individuals in your community or run an at-risk youth summer camp.
  • Event-focused volunteering: Events have many moving parts, and handing some responsibilities over to volunteers can free up precious time for your staff to take on other important work. For example, if your organization is hosting a fun run fundraiser, you can have volunteers manage water stations, hand out medals or trophies, and run your merchandise booth, allowing your staff to focus on interacting with participants or delivering promised benefits to sponsors.

Offering different kinds of volunteer opportunities will ensure that there’s a volunteer opportunity for everyone in your community. And as your volunteers can help out in a way that suits their schedules, comfort levels, skill sets, and personal preferences, they’ll be more likely to continue engaging with your volunteer program long-term.

2. Optimize your website to be a useful volunteer tool.

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Your website can be a useful tool for engaging your volunteers. Start by building out a dedicated volunteer program landing page. This page should be branded to the rest of your website and provide an intuitive user experience.

To make your page a go-to resource, you should also do the following:

  • Streamline your volunteer application. Assess your volunteer application. Make your form short and easy to fill out while ensuring you’re still getting all the data you need. Embedding your volunteer application on your website or linking to your online application form are great ways of recruiting more volunteers because you have their attention and interest while they’re visiting your program’s site.
  • Create volunteer job descriptions. On your website’s volunteer page, you should provide volunteer job descriptions for the different roles you need to fill. This is also a great place to outline the different types of volunteer opportunities you offer, as discussed above! Job descriptions can help volunteers find roles that align with their interests and skill sets, setting them up for success from the get-go. And, if you're currently using a volunteer management software (VMS) solution, you should be able to accomplish this by either embedding your job descriptions into your website or adding a link on your website that takes your website visitor to a page that highlights your program's offering within the software.
  • Provide access to a volunteer portal. Create a password-protected volunteer portal where volunteers can view training materials, scheduling tools, your volunteer directory, volunteer forums, and more. It can be common for VMS solutions to come with a volunteer portal nowadays, so if you're using a VMS to help you manage your program, consider getting your volunteers engaged with this portal, if not already. The volunteer will be better informed about your program and their commitments to it, and it will save you time from taking on management tasks that the volunteer could handle themselves within their portal (such as logging their own hours or signing up for volunteer shifts).
  • Include social sharing tools. Healthy volunteer programs thrive by consistently recruiting more volunteers. Encourage your current volunteers to help promote your program by including social sharing tools on your volunteer page. This way, they can share specific opportunities or general information about your program with their personal networks.

A robust volunteer management system (VMS) that can integrate with your website will help you get even more out of your web-based volunteer program materials. With the right tool, you’ll be able to capture data to store in individual volunteers’ profiles, generate reports, and easily communicate with your community of volunteers via email and text, reinforcing the work you’re doing to engage your volunteers with your website.

3. Invite your volunteers to donate to your cause.


According to a CCS Fundraising report, 76% of nonprofit donors give to organizations that they volunteer with. What does this mean for your nonprofit? Inviting your volunteers to donate can be an effective way to further engage them.

Here are a few ideas for encouraging volunteers to become donors:

  • Promote your monthly giving program. Monthly or recurring giving programs are popular because they allow people to give small gifts over time, adding up to create a major impact. Invite your volunteers to sign up for your program and automate their monthly giving.
  • Create donation eCards. eCards add a personal touch to the donation process. With tools like eCardWidget, your volunteers can give in honor of their loved ones, sending them an eCard to let them know about the contribution made in their name.
  • Let them know about your planned giving program. Your volunteers may be interested in making your organization a part of their legacy one day. Provide educational materials about your program, and invite them to join your planned giving society.
  • Educate them about volunteer grants. Your volunteers can also turn their volunteering hours into cash for your cause. According to Double the Donation’s guide to corporate volunteer grants, if your volunteers’ employers offer volunteer grants, they just need to meet their specific employers’ requirements and submit a volunteer grant application. The employer will verify the details with your organization and send you a check!
  • Ask for in-kind donations. Depending on your cause, you may also want to seek donated items like clothing, toys, school supplies, office equipment, or food. These in-kind donations can provide flexibility for your volunteers when it’s difficult to give a monetary donation, and your nonprofit can immediately put these items to use.

The more ways that your volunteers are involved with your cause, the more invested they’ll be in seeing your organization fulfill its mission. This is why inviting them to donate in addition to volunteering can be an effective way to boost engagement!

4. Set up a volunteer recognition program.


To engage and retain your volunteers for the long term, you need to recognize them for their contributions and ensure that they know how much they matter to your organization. You can do this by setting up a volunteer recognition program.

A volunteer recognition program can provide the structure you need to make your volunteer appreciation efforts consistent, fair, and goal-oriented. Set up your program by first defining the criteria by which volunteers will be chosen for recognition and establishing a budget. Then, you’ll need to promote your program to your volunteers.

But most importantly, you’ll need to determine how you’ll recognize your volunteers. Here are a few unique ideas:

  • Give small gifts. Gift cards, branded merchandise, candles, and potted plants can be fun tokens of appreciation for your volunteers. Plus, these gifts give them a tangible representation of how much your organization values them and their efforts. Celebrating a volunteer's years of service or achievement in reaching a milestone for number of hours given, might be celebrated by the volunteer earning a pin for that service level (e.g. 10 years of service; 100 volunteer hours given). It can be a badge of honor that's worn while volunteering.
  • Send eCards. eCards put a quick and easy spin on the traditional thank-you note. Plus, with the help of a volunteer management solution, you can quickly send eCard links to individual volunteers or entire groups.
  • Host volunteer-specific events. Most of the time, your volunteers are the ones working behind the scenes at your events. But why not host an event just to celebrate them and their hard work? For example, you might host an appreciation luncheon or dinner, an awards ceremony, or a relaxing movie night. Volunteer Appreciation Week (or Month) are well-known times in the year for volunteer programs around the world to host events to recognize the wonderful work and impact made from volunteers.

As you get your recognition program up and running, remember that you can refine it over time. This will be especially important as you strive to tailor your recognition strategies to your volunteers and their interests and values. For example, you may learn that many of your volunteers prefer appreciation events to small gifts.

Engaging your volunteers helps you retain your current volunteers and maintain a volunteer program that your community will want to join. Use these four creative strategies to get started on making improvements to your engagement efforts today!

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