20 Ways to Improve Your Volunteer Program in 2019

A new year is approaching quickly! And with every new year comes an opportunity to re-evaluate organizational programs and structures to ensure you’re getting the most out of your volunteer scheduling and program. Here are 20 ideas that could become your volunteer management resolutions for 2019!

Networking Opportunities

If you’re waiting for volunteers to come to you, you may be missing out. Use the following ideas to make 2019 the year you broaden your pool of volunteers.

1) Connect with local universities
Do you have any colleges or universities in your area? If so, reach out to the advisory or career services offices and find out if they can connect you with students who may want to gain some job skills while working for a good cause.

2) Find volunteers online
Have you visited Catchafire or VolunteerMatch? If not, consider registering your nonprofit with some of these online services to gain access to a greater pool of skilled volunteers.

Organizational Structure

Make 2019 the year you look internally to discover areas that could be improved in your volunteer program.

3) Memorize your messaging
Are volunteers aware of your organization’s mission and vision statement? If not, consider engaging your volunteers in a fun, competitive challenge to memorize your organization’s core messaging to ensure everyone knows why and how you do what you do.

4) Take an inventory of skills
Create a quick survey and find out what skill sets your volunteers have. You may be surprised by what you find. Perhaps your volunteer receptionist is a budding graphic designer! Make time to uncover the possibilities!

5) Develop job descriptions
If you don’t have formalized descriptions for the volunteer roles at your organization, consider creating them. A quick 15 minute check in with your volunteers will help you determine the core activities they’re responsible for. Once the descriptions are written, have volunteers review for accuracy, and then keep the descriptions on file. When it’s time to recruit for that position again, you’ll have a quick way to inform new volunteers about what the role entails.

6) Write a manual
If you don’t have a document with key information readily available for volunteers, consider creating one. Include items such as the organization’s history, mission and vision, key contacts and contact information, and any important dates for the organization.

7) Develop an onboarding flow
Use the power of software to create a reproducible onboarding flow. Make it interactive with documents, media, and tasks to complete. Use software such as Unison when you have a cohort, or boards like Trello, Asana, Wrike, or Basecamp when your volunteers onboard individually.

8) Learn volunteers’ satisfaction
How healthy is your volunteer program? Find out! Create a survey to ask volunteers what they do and don’t like the program and find key areas to target for improvement this year.

9) Ask staff about needs
Would you like to integrate volunteers into your organization, but not sure where? Send a survey to the staff to find out what areas within their departments could use some help.

Volunteer Recognition

Above all else, be sure you have systems in place to recognize and thank volunteers.

10) Create a volunteer wall
Consider claiming a wall within your organization to honor those who donate of their time. Post a picture, service length time, and fun fact about volunteers for an interactive way to say thanks.

11) Plan a meal
If you don’t yet have an official date on the calendar to honor volunteers, consider adding one. Depending on the size or scope of your volunteer base, it could be anything from a dessert spread to a full banquet. Plan to take time to let volunteers know they are appreciated!

12) Establish award categories
Do you have awards categories in place for volunteers? If not, consider creating some. Categories might be for years of service, most hours in a week, or biggest fundraiser.

13) Recognize Volunteer Appreciation Day
Be sure to put International Volunteer Day on our organization’s calendar. Mark this day to email volunteers a thank you, send them a card or host a special event for them.

14) Share volunteer highlights
Do you have a company newsletter or other form of communication? If so, develop a space within it to celebrate individual and group volunteer contributions.

Growth Opportunities

Find ways to ensure your volunteer program challenges volunteers and strengthens your organization.

15) Give more responsibility
Are your volunteers stagnant or bored? Consider next steps for those who have mastered their roles by thinking through ways they may be able to take on more responsibilities.

16) Mingle volunteers and staff
Do you have staff meetings or trainings that volunteers could take part in? Perhaps they could share a quick story about their volunteer experience with staff or participate in internal training? Don’t overlook opportunities to empower both your staff and volunteers in one setting.

17) Create a fundraising calendar
Don’t waste valuable volunteer energy. Develop 12 creative ways volunteers can fundraise for your nonprofit and promote one method each month. Ideas could be volunteer sponsored garage sales, bake sales, and anything in between. Make it easy for anyone to help your nonprofit thrive.

18) Expand your program
Examine your volunteer program and consider if there are new volunteer roles you could incorporate, such as interns or retirees. Set up a program to bring in a new demographic that can help strengthen and grow your organization.

Volunteer Communication

Don’t miss opportunities to connect with volunteers to keep them in the loop and present more opportunities for service.

19) Start a volunteer newsletter
Do you have a way to stay connected with your volunteers? If not, consider starting small, like a quarterly email update that can grow with your program. Volunteers will appreciate the updates, and you’ll gain a way to keep them informed.

20) Create an online social group
Depending on the size of your volunteer base, they may enjoy connecting in a separate space such as a Facebook group, Google group, or by creating your own unique space in Unison. Give them a place to share experiences, ask questions, and connect with other volunteers