Remember, this guide is in chronological order from inception to operation. That’s why we’re starting with volunteer staff and not paid staff. Many nonprofit organizations will have paid staff, which we’ll address later, but all start with volunteers.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of every nonprofit organization. While they are vitally important, most organizations need to consider their management when forming. Based on our research, 73% of nonprofits needed help with volunteer management in their first year of operation.

Nonprofit volunteers are priceless additions to your origination. The average volunteer is equal to an in-kind donation of $25 for every hour they work. While not necessarily providing monetary donations, volunteers are providing their precious resource of time. Ensuring that volunteers are well-managed and well-utilized is essential to the organization’s operation.

Recruiting Volunteers

When looking for volunteers, start with your Board of Directors to define the characteristics wanted in volunteers. It doesn’t hurt to develop volunteer job descriptions to clearly define expectations and priorities and their role in the organization.

As we discussed earlier in this guide, every nonprofit needs to maintain detailed bookkeeping records. Perhaps seeking a CPA who is willing to volunteer their time to help the organization establish a set of accounting practices is something the board considers. Once a volunteer role is determined, the board should create a list of individuals who may enjoy volunteering their time with the organization.

Once you have a list of roles you’d like volunteers to fill and names of people potentially willing to fill those roles, you’ve got to start asking people. You may think it is self-evident that a nonprofit needs and wants help, but you’d be amazed at how many people in your circle don’t know.

–    Your Circle: Ask your immediate circle of family, friends, and coworkers if they will volunteer for the organization.

–    Local Schools: Contact local schools and universities to see if students wish to get engaged in community service. Many students require annual volunteer hours for scholarship eligibility, so why not help them earn their hours while assisting your organization?

–    Local Organizations: Consider partnering with local churches, faith-based organizations, civic groups, or local companies looking for opportunities to serve.

–    Your Website: Add a volunteer section to your website, including the volunteer job descriptions and ways for potential volunteers to get involved.

–    Simple Process: Develop a clear and straightforward volunteer sign-up process. A website form requesting contact information is a great way to start.

–    Spotlight Stars: Highlight volunteer opportunities on your social media or newsletters and direct them to your website’s sign-up form.

–    Press Release: Issue a press release letting the community know about the good work your organization is doing and how people can get involved.

–    Community Events: Attend community events to spread your organization’s message. These are an excellent way to meet prospective volunteers (and donors).

–    Senior Citizens: Engage with local senior citizen centers if you have appropriate volunteer opportunities. Many seniors enjoy ways to get involved and help their communities and often have a lifetime of skills and knowledge at their disposal.

Retaining Volunteers

While volunteers are seemingly in endless supply once you look hard enough, you should only seek the number of volunteers you need and can adequately manage. Volunteers must understand your organization’s mission and the role they play in its operation. Including volunteers as an essential part of the nonprofit’s mission leaves them feeling connected to the entire organization and helps retain them for future needs.

One way to retain volunteers is through appreciation activities. Like donor appreciation activities, these can be spotlights on social media, your organization’s website, or newsletter. You may also consider handwriting thank you notes or hosting an appreciation meal for volunteers annually.

Volunteers excited about your mission will not only continue to provide reliable help but also act as spokespeople for your organization. They will potentially become donors as their funds allow. Happy volunteers will also recruit future volunteers and donors to your organization without any work on your part. Remember, excited and engaged volunteers are your most valuable resource.

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