Approximately 25% of the adult population in the United States volunteers, which means effective volunteer management is increasingly important for nonprofits. In fact, when you look at younger generations, that number jumps up to around 64%. Volunteering is on the rise, and nonprofits need to be prepared to welcome the next generation of generous volunteers.
The impact of volunteers has value on its own, but it’s also worth noting that 76% of volunteers are also donors to that nonprofit. Effective volunteer management is necessary to make sure you have both the labor and financial resources necessary to further your nonprofit’s mission.
What is volunteer management?
The most basic definition of “volunteer management” is the process by which your nonprofit manages and tracks volunteers. But it goes well beyond the essential tasks associated with managing your volunteers. Volunteer management involves how your nonprofit handles the entire volunteer journey. That journey starts with recruiting new volunteers, sending thank-you communications, and growing volunteers into generous financial donors.
Historically, volunteer management has heavily focused on managing the logistics of the volunteer journey. However, with the help of the right volunteer management tool, your staff can shift their focus to relationship-building and personalization. Personalizing the volunteer journey is an essential ingredient of the Responsive Fundraising framework.
Responsive fundraising puts your supporters at the center of fundraising. It helps you grow giving (of both money and time!) through personalized volunteer and donor journeys that respond to the needs of each individual. The responsive approach builds trust and loyalty with your supporters through personalized engagement. Ultimately, the responsive framework is vital in helping you grow your volunteer program.
In many organizations, Volunteer management exists as a separate function from fundraising. But if 76% of volunteers donate, it’s time to take a more holistic approach to manage the relationship between your nonprofit and your supporters (regardless of how they support your organization). Your volunteer management strategy should be critical to your overall strategy.
Why invest in a volunteer management tool?
To be a good steward of supporter generosity, nonprofit leaders should view implementing the right tools as an investment toward creating a more efficient and sustainable nonprofit. The right volunteer management software helps create a more sustainable nonprofit with reduced back-office tasks and an improved volunteer experience.
In fact, according to a study published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, the ideal ratio for nonprofits to spend on overhead costs is around 35% total. The study also recommends focusing more on data based on outcomes rather than budgetary spending. The implications of this study are widespread, but the main takeaway is that investing in the right tools can improve your organizational efficiency.
Investing in a volunteer management tool can provide several benefits, such as:
- The ability to easily track mission-critical analytics
- Reduction in costly manual tasks that slow down volunteer mobilization efforts
- An improved volunteer experience that encourages volunteers to return and become financial supporters of your nonprofit
What do you need in a volunteer management tool?
Depending on your nonprofit’s volunteer management strategy, you may use your tools differently. Regardless, a good volunteer management tool should be flexible enough to fit your organization’s needs while simplifying your internal processes.
The sections below cover what to look for in a good volunteer management tool. Ultimately, look for a tool that allows your team to reduce administrative work and increase focus on high-impact, relationship-building activities.
The first step in any volunteer journey is awareness. Volunteers must be aware of your organization and available volunteer opportunities before they can even consider volunteering.
A good volunteer management tool will provide a way to promote your volunteer opportunities. Some tools include a calendar option that integrates with your website and displays opportunities. While this is certainly better than having no promotion, clicking through month after month to find a volunteer event can quickly frustrate potential volunteers. Volunteer hubs that are more visual and project-based are more user-friendly.
Regardless of how the volunteer opportunities are listed, you also want to select a tool that empowers you to integrate your nonprofit’s visual brand elements into anything public-facing. A seamless experience that creates clarity in the minds of your volunteers is always best.
Once someone is aware of your volunteer opportunities, it should be easy for them to take the next step and sign up. Even the most passionate supporters can drop off and lose trust if they experience confusion and friction in their volunteer journey.
To create a smoother experience for volunteers, you’ll want a volunteer management tool that includes:
- Individual & group registration
- Recurring serving dates
- Automated reminders and updates
- Mobile check-in kiosk
The right volunteer management tool will also reduce back-office tasks that slow down efforts to mobilize your volunteers. Look for tools that automate background checks and manage volunteer resumes.
Frustrating forms requiring supporters to repeat the same steps every time they volunteer or failing to send reminders for upcoming commitments means you risk your relationship with that volunteer. Implementing a good volunteer management tool automates those types of tasks and creates a reliable experience for your volunteers. It also frees up your staff’s time to focus on cultivating relationships that turn volunteers into well-rounded, life-long supporters.
Throughout the volunteer journey, you need to communicate effectively with your volunteers in a way that makes sense. Use a volunteer management tool to provide volunteers with the experience they expect and deserve. Remove all friction from the volunteer journey with personalized, branded communications every step of the way.
Every nonprofit will create a unique volunteer journey for their supporters, but the following features help remove friction from the process:
- Campaign & project pages
- Custom registration forms
- Volunteer mobile app
- Branded & custom emails
- Automated notifications
Your volunteers are contributing the priceless gift of their time. Providing them with a comprehensive volunteer experience that is true to your nonprofit’s brand and voice cultivates trust and confidence.
Reporting on Volunteer Data
One of the best benefits of a volunteer management tool is the ability to track mission-critical analytics at any time to share with your board, team, or supporters. Manually managed volunteer programs don’t provide quick access to the data showcasing the impact volunteers make with their time.
A good volunteer management tool will have a robust administrative dashboard that displays vital statistics in a visual, easy-to-read format. You’ll want to see data such as total volunteer hours and volunteer economic impact. These help you track the influence of your volunteers, and you can even share that data publicly to encourage even greater generosity and participation.
Another element of effective volunteer reporting is seeing a breakdown of volunteers based on various demographics. This breakdown provides a fuller picture of your volunteers, which means you know where to focus your efforts when trying to find new volunteers.
Ultimately, putting numbers behind your volunteer program will help you understand what you’ve accomplished. Understanding the data will also provide insights into where you can improve or grow. Without data, most of those decisions will come down to guesswork, which just isn’t sustainable.
Nonprofit CRM Integration
If 76% of volunteers also donate to those nonprofits, you need to look at volunteer and donor information together. Few nonprofit CRMs on the market have a true volunteer management component. However, tracking that information alongside the donation information is the only way to get an accurate picture of your supporters.
Historically, nonprofits have kept financial and volunteer information separate or relied on clunky, manual workarounds that are unreliable and frustrating. That is no longer an option, as nonprofits must be responsive to how their supporters want to be involved. Moreover, nonprofit teams don’t have the time to waste on manual workarounds.
When considering what volunteer management tool best fits your organization, look carefully at how each will integrate with your donor information. If it’s going to be difficult and require manual work to see your supporters’ volunteer and donation history on the same page, prioritize looking at other options instead.
What volunteer management tool is best for you?
Adding any new software tool is a big decision to make! Ultimately, you will discover what works best, but the options can be overwhelming. Take advantage of the resources out there. Check out the Nonprofit CRM Checklist and professional groups like your local AFP chapter as you evaluate options.
Also, consider taking a look at VOMO! VOMO operates with Responsive Fundraising at its core. Customers find they can get the recruitment, mobilization, and reporting tools needed to create responsive volunteer experiences—without the back-office headaches.
Regardless of your choice, remember that the best volunteer management tool will be a true asset to your organization. Find software that will help you manage more volunteers with less hassle and has features you need to gain a holistic perspective on your nonprofit’s supporters.