By Heather Thornton, Project Manager
I have written in the past about the importance of showing appreciation to your donors and how the little ways in which you can simply say “thank you” can go a long way. With Valentine’s Day still fresh on our minds, perhaps now is as good a time as any to take a moment and reflect upon another important part of your organization: your volunteers. Volunteers can provide manpower, help your nonprofit’s outreach and offer services in areas of their expertise.
At a former job, I served as Programs Coordinator for an Atlanta-based nonprofit. One of my main duties, in addition to organizing educational programs about international affairs, was to serve as the liaison between this particular nonprofit and its volunteer base.
One of the interesting things I noticed while in this role was that the same people kept coming back again and again to help, and eventually, we had a handful of outstanding volunteers. As I reflect back on this time and how we worked to retain these great folks, a few attributes of a good volunteering culture come to mind (all of which I still look for today when considering whether a nonprofit is a good fit for me as a volunteer):
- Make Volunteering Fun and Important – Although individual reasons for volunteering vary, I can bet that many folks may do so to feel like they are making a difference at the organization which they serve, so make activities meaningful for your volunteers. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a good time while doing so!
- Use and Acknowledge Individual Skillsets – Each person will bring a different skillset to the table, and people like to be noticed for the things they do well. Assign your volunteers tasks which you know compliment their skillset, and your organization will benefit from their expertise as well.
- Make it Convenient – Everyone is busy, and the fact that someone wants to give up his time to help your organization is a great thing. Make sure to acknowledge your volunteers’ schedules by being flexible.
- Be Appreciative! – Let your volunteers know you truly value their time, knowledge and effort by showing your appreciation as often as possible.
Don’t forget to show some love and create an environment that welcomes and celebrates your vital volunteers!