No matter what kind of budget your nonprofit has, everyone can agree that volunteers are one of the best investments--primarily because they are free!
However, mismanagement of volunteers due to other budgeting restraints could turn a fun, giving-back experience into a stressful, this-feels-like-work one.
Here are our top 10 tips for managing your volunteers, especially if you're working with a small budget:
1. Look like a team
Even if your organization can't shell out for a lot of bells and whistles, something as simple as uniform t-shirts can help volunteers feel like part of a team. When people feel like part of a team, they are more likely to work together, which helps your volunteer coordinators keep them organized and on-task.
Can't afford shirts? No problem, ask volunteers to bring a plain shirt and have them make their own! You can even turn your logo into an iron-on decal.
Don't have time for crafts? Buy shirts and charge a small "donation" in exchange for a free t-shirt.
2. Create schedules and lists
Schedules and lists are a great way to prepare your volunteers for an upcoming event or project. By knowing what to expect ahead of time, your volunteers will come prepared and execute their tasks with less difficulty than if they received instructions the day of.
The greatest perk of lists and schedules: they don't cost a thing and are easy to prepare.
3. Survey volunteers
Ask your supporters why they volunteer when they sign up, and after they have participated in a volunteer opportunity find out how it went. Gauging your volunteers' expectations and reactions to how they interact with your nonprofit will help you improve your overall management in the future.
This data is also great to include in reports to your board, in grant applications, or to incorporate into your marketing to encourage other people to volunteer with your organization.
4. Say "Thank you."
Never forget that volunteers CHOSE to help your organization, when they could be doing other, possibly more exciting things.
Always thank your volunteers when they sign up and after they actually donate their time. Showing your appreciation will keep your volunteers receptive to future opportunities and calls-to-action from your nonprofit.
5. Write a volunteer mission statement
On your volunteer marketing materials and website, proudly display your volunteer mission statement. If volunteers better understand their role with your organization, they will have more pride in the services they contribute. Also, new volunteers will have a better sense, going in, what to expect from your nonprofit and how their time will make a difference
6. Define best practices
Just like lists, schedules, and missions statement, the more information a volunteer has access too, the more prepared they will be for any and every situation.
The goal when you have a small budget is to have volunteers manage themselves. By outlining a few simple best practices guidelines in a hand-out or booklet, you encourage your volunteers to problem solve and decide on the best course of action--whether that is contacting a volunteer coordinator or taking charge of a situation.
7. Share the impact
Collect data from your volunteers, events, and donors, then share it with your supporters. This is not only a great way to keep volunteers coming back, but also a good way to encourage others to sign up and make a difference.
8. Provide team opportunities
Organize your volunteers into groups or teams and assign them to specific tasks or projects. Using that team-mindset, volunteers will be more likely to organize themselves and keep their peers on task.
9. Reward volunteers
No need to go big when you're on a budget. A couple of pizzas and bottles of soda at the conclusion of an event or project is enough to give volunteers the satisfaction of a job well-done.If a small pizza party after every volunteer opportunity will break the bank, hold monthly, bi-annual, or annual celebratory events to thank volunteers all at once.
10. Recognize individuals
Ok, so maybe a celebration of any kind is out of your budget. Not a problem. Why not recognized your volunteers with photos from their service. Sharing these memories via social media or on your nonprofit's website will remind volunteers that they made a difference and should be proud of what they helped you accomplish.
Another option is to identify a few volunteers in particular who went above and beyond or have donated over a certain number of volunteer hours.