Saturday, March 17, 2012

Much Needed Volunteer R & R (Recruitment and Retention)

By Laprisha Berry Vaughn
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

Shannon Prudhomme’s’ previous entry, Texas Restaurants Partner with UNICEF to Provide Safe, Clean Drinking Water to Children Around the World, highlighted UNICEF’s Tap Project. UNICEF touts having the largest volunteer mobilization effort for the U.S. We are less than 30 days away from National Volunteer Week (April 15-April 21, 2012) and it makes sense to think about how organizations can engage volunteers for National Volunteer Week and beyond.

Effectively recruiting and engaging volunteers can be a sustainable way for nonprofits to reduce organizational costs, publicize the organization, its mission and activities and engage the community. The most successful volunteer programs use multiple avenues to promote the opportunities available and to encourage initial and on-going participation.

Getting Volunteers
Publicity: Get the word out about the volunteer opportunities available and how to apply using the organization’s web site, blog and/or newsletters. Feature active volunteers in the newsletter and on the web site and always include instructions about how to volunteer.

Talent Scouts: Empower the current volunteers to recruit their colleagues and friends.

Volunteer Job Fair: Set up a Volunteer Job Fair or table at your next event where interested parties can sign-up to be volunteers in the future. Current volunteers should be on hand to answer questions and serve as ambassadors and champions for your organization and its volunteer opportunities.

Retaining Volunteers
Set Them up for Success: Give volunteers tasks in which they will be successful. Give volunteers all resources necessary to perform well.

Show Appreciation: Thanks and recognition are critical factors in motivating and retaining volunteers. There has never been a volunteer who has been thanked too often!
• Volunteer Recognition Banquets can be a powerful tool to recognize volunteers among peers and may help with ongoing volunteer recruitment
• Learn what motivates each volunteer and make your recognition appropriate to what he or she thinks is important
• Thank volunteers genuinely and appropriately
• Assess volunteers and promote volunteers to other roles that take better advantage of their talents

Show They’re Valued: Make sure the volunteers are doing work that is meaningful to them and the community. Show volunteers that you respect and welcome their feedback and opinion while planning and evaluating a process or project.

When volunteer recruitment efforts are thoughtful and deliberate, volunteers have meaningful work to do, and they receive appropriate orientation and training, are well supervised and receive feedback and are solicited for feedback and are recognized for their efforts, the volunteer experience will be satisfying enough that they will want to continue to be engaged with the organization for which they have volunteered.

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