Volunteer Smarter, Not Harder: Tips from Social Good Pros

Volunteer Smarter, Not Harder: Tips from Your Fellow Social Good Pros

By on Apr 28, 2022

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People volunteering

Are you looking for ways to manage your volunteers more effectively? To conclude National Volunteer Month, we’ve gathered the best volunteer management tips and tricks from Blackbaud Champions 

Keep reading for ways to volunteer smarter, not harder! 

Communication is Key  

Much of the feedback we received mentioned focusing on quality communication between organizers and volunteers as the best starting point. When you communicate regularly and stay flexible to your volunteers’ needs, everyone is more effective.   

 

I utilize whatever forms of communication work for everyone, whether it be an email thread, group text, or Google Calendar meeting requests. Communication is number one… You need to keep them engaged and excited about what they are volunteering for.

 – Michelle Moses, special events and advancement services manager at St. Ursula Academy 

 

I [have] several volunteers who do not use any of the social media or latest technology. To accommodate this, I simply print out a big blank monthly calendar with shifts, and volunteers will initial on the shift they’ll cover. They even take it upon themselves to switch or fill in empty slots.

 – Terri Chambers, database support specialist/administrator at Livingston HealthCare 

 

Involve Volunteers in Strategic Planning 

Another frequent tip from Blackbaud Champions was to help volunteers see the bigger picture by involving them in brainstorming, strategic planning, and crucial meetings so they are in the loop and can execute tasks with a sense of shared purpose. 

 

Always have a strategic plan to ensure volunteers see their place in the organization and the fruits of their efforts.

 – Tim Ambrose, manager, alumni relations at Fanshawe College 

 

Help them to feel that their contribution is important to the success of the organization.

 – David Hecht, data and report analyst at the South Dakota State University Foundation 

 

Provide good training. Resource volunteers well, so they have the necessary stories and insights to share the vision.

 – Matt Warren, database and events officer at BMS World Mission 

 

The most successful programs must be initiated by volunteers themselves. They’ll work harder and smarter if they’re involved from conception through fruition, as compared to a volunteer who is assigned a task or project.

 – Russel Heskin, executive director, special projects at Western University of Health Sciences 

 

Get to Know Your Volunteers 

Flex your relationship-building muscles if you want to succeed in volunteer management! When you know your volunteers’ backgrounds, interests, and abilities, you can place them with the right opportunity to advance your mission.  

 

Building a personal relationship with each volunteer values them as an individual—and enriches our lives immensely! They are a wealth of experience and wisdom.

 – Jana Fross, operations and data coordinator at HaysMed Foundation 

 

Understand the skillsets of each volunteer and give them the tasks for which they can succeed. When they do succeed, they will return to volunteer again.

 – Mark Guncheon, development IT analyst at Bon Secours Health System 

 

I strive to be flexible in aligning volunteers’ interests and abilities with our needs. We were planning an email communication plan for a fundraising project due to the number of alumni we wanted to reach. When a number of our recruited volunteers… wanted to make their contacts by phone, we adjusted.

– JoAnn Strommen, database administrator at South Dakota Mines Center for Alumni Relations & Development 

 

Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate! 

Finally, make sure to show your gratitude and appreciation to every volunteer. Whether it’s kind words, a card, a gift, or a handshake after a job well done, make sure they know they are valued.   

 

I model the hospitality I expect our volunteers to show to visitors by welcoming them with warmth, fully listening and engaging when they are present, and showing appreciation for their choice to [volunteer] that day.

– Rebecca Barnes, volunteer manager at Tellus Science Museum 

 

Show them gratitude and ensure they feel part of the team.

– Michael Ragsdale, manager, annual programs at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation

 

How do you manage volunteers in your organization to help good take over? If you’ll be implementing any of the above tips, let us know which one and how by leaving a comment. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As Blackbaud’s customer advocacy marketing manager, Christina oversees the Blackbaud Champions customer advocacy program and develops content for sgENGAGE and other brand marketing initiatives.

Prior to her time at Blackbaud, Christina worked in marketing, communications, and public relations in higher education, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations. She uses her experience as a former Blackbaud customer to support and engage Blackbaud customers globally through the Blackbaud Champions program.

Comments (8)

  • Carol Ewart says:

    These are great tips for engaging volunteers!

  • Pam Holden says:

    Huge ‘ditto’ on understanding the skillset of your Volunteers. Taking the time to do this makes for a much more meaningful relationship and all around success, for your organization and those you serve.

  • Carlene Johnson says:

    Really helpful tips that I can share with my team as we try to wrangle our parent & alumni volunteers!

  • Jennifer Wuchner says:

    Wow — Great ideas. One thing we do sometimes is randomly show up at a worksite in summer and pass out popsicles. We have found everyone has time to stop and eat a popsicle on an hot hot day.

  • Roger Berg, Jr. says:

    Volunteers can’t be appreciated enough because what they give is a commodity that cannot be replaced – their time.

  • Amy barker says:

    Super helpful tips. Bookmarking!!!!

  • Amy says:

    I’ll be sharing this article with our volunteer team for sure. Thank you!

  • Anna Corrine McCall says:

    This information is very informative. Thanks

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