How do you currently organize opportunities for your volunteers? Is it via a sign-up sheet at your front desk? Perhaps it’s a weekly or monthly email requesting volunteers for upcoming projects. Regardless of your method, organizing your volunteer opportunities is incredibly important. When engaging with your supporters, they should be able to easily find opportunities that match their interests and capabilities. No one can sign up to volunteer if they are not aware of what opportunities you offer!
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Offering easy and accessible ways for volunteers to find opportunities is a vital step in their volunteer journey. Did you know that volunteering and donating are tightly intertwined? In fact, 68% of donors in Canada and the United States volunteer. That means the volunteer experience and the donor experience are one and the same for many of your supporters. Applying the responsive fundraising framework to your volunteer efforts is just as important as applying it to your fundraising efforts.
In order to be more responsive with your volunteer management efforts, you need to create a volunteer experience that is personalized and contextualized for your supporters. The first step is to ensure your volunteer opportunities are organized and advertised effectively. But you’ll need to consider the different ways your supporters may want to volunteer and provide opportunities that meet supporters where they are.
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Organizing Your Volunteer Opportunities
How a nonprofit organizes its volunteer opportunities will look different depending on its mission and how you operate as an organization. However, it is helpful to consider the following different approaches to make sure you are not missing out on opportunities to engage with your volunteers.
Recurring Volunteer Opportunities
One way to encourage volunteers is by creating recurring schedules for weekly or monthly volunteer opportunities. Allowing for recurring opportunities creates a more reliable schedule for your volunteers. They are more likely to volunteer if they know the regular rotation of opportunities available. You can schedule volunteer opportunities in multiple ways.
Let’s say you have recurring time slots five days a week, Monday through Friday. You could set up your schedules in a few different ways:
- Create a volunteer opportunity and add consistent time slots covering Monday through Friday. For example, you could have a 12:00-2:00 time slot for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. all living under the same opportunity.
- Split up your opportunities into two options: M/W/F and T/Th. Then do the same thing as above and create time slots for each of those days under each relevant opportunity.
Don’t feel like you have to put all of your time slots crammed onto a single opportunity schedule! Depending on how many volunteer time slots you offer per day, it can be overwhelming for volunteers to have five days’ worth of time slots crammed into a single sign-up experience. However, if you have just one slot a day, housing those under the same opportunity can increase visibility for your supporters. Choose whatever method makes sense for mobilizing your nonprofit’s volunteers.
Create Volunteer Opportunities for Groups
Oftentimes, supporters who want to serve as a group can struggle because many organizations are not set up to handle groups effectively. Creating volunteer opportunities that are designed specifically for groups will make it easier for your supporters and set you apart as a nonprofit.
Volunteer groups are looking for an experience where they can know exactly when their group can volunteer and how many spots are available for their group. Volunteer groups are ready to mobilize and if you can provide that information effectively and clearly, it’ll go a long way.
Create an opportunity with time slots that are only for groups. Set up the opportunity with a title and description that clearly communicates that this opportunity is for groups of volunteers. Also, make sure that you do not include these group slots in your recurring volunteer slots as discussed above. Clearly identify group volunteer opportunities and keep them separate from individual opportunities.
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Prepare Opportunities That Don’t Require Time Slots
Not all volunteer opportunities have time slots. In fact, diversifying the ways that supporters can engage in your volunteer efforts is beneficial for everyone. People who don’t have a predictable or open schedule should still be able to – and encouraged to – volunteer.
Item donation drives or volunteers coming into your office to do administrative work on their own time are good examples of “anytime” volunteer opportunities. If you want these volunteers to track their own serving (without you having to do extra work to track it for them) you need to set up a volunteer management tool or process for them to be able to log these item donations and hours served.
Setting up a list of items (and quantities of those items) your nonprofit needs with a way for volunteers to mark how many they donated will help you stay organized. In a similar way, setting up a signup sheet for volunteers to log hours they’re serving every week in your office, filing paperwork, or answering the phone on their own time will help you track hours served when normally you wouldn’t have been able to.
Be Organized With How You Advertise Volunteer Opportunities
Lastly, you need to group these different volunteer opportunities together into larger initiatives. Simply putting a giant list of opportunities on your website or volunteer management tool can be confusing and lack clarity for your supporters. You’ll want your volunteers to be able to navigate to opportunities relevant to them. Well-organized and clearly identified initiatives can help. Losing volunteers because of a difficult process or poorly organized schedule is incredibly frustrating and absolutely avoidable.
Creating effective initiatives to house your various volunteer opportunities depends on how you run your volunteer program. Based on the ideas above, here are a few ways to consider organizing your volunteer hub:
1. Create a specific “group” initiative that houses all of your group volunteer opportunities.
Separating group initiatives out from recurring or individual opportunities makes it easier for groups. It can also help individual contributors know and find opportunities just for them. No more confusion!
2. Create initiatives based on the volunteer activity.
For example, create a “health” initiative to house all of the health-related volunteer opportunities. Then you can also create a “hunger” initiative to house any volunteer opportunities related to collecting, cooking, and serving food. This helps volunteers find opportunities that are relevant to their interests.
3. Create initiatives around the timing of the volunteer opportunities.
You can use this approach if you separate out opportunities based on the day of the week or even if your nonprofit has seasonal projects.
Not only does organizing your volunteer opportunities into clear initiatives make it easier for your volunteers, but you are also communicating to the public that you’re organized and have a plan for how you manage your volunteer programs.
- Finding an intuitive way to organize your volunteer opportunities is going to improve your volunteer engagement. It will also improve the reputation of your volunteer program.
- Consider the types of volunteer activities that your nonprofit runs. Organize those opportunities into logical initiatives that will make it easier for your volunteers to sign up for an opportunity.
- Volunteer groups are common, and it is worth your time to create volunteer opportunities specifically dedicated for groups.