Connecting with Volunteers in the Right Way

Tuesday August 31, 2021 comments Tags: volunteers, nonprofit, volunteering, podcast

Any accounting business and tax advice contained in this podcast is not intended as a thorough in depth analysis of specific issues. Nor is it a substitute for format information. Nor is it sufficient to avoid tax related penalties. If you have specific questions that you need advice for, be sure to schedule a strategy session and not solely rely on information in this podcast. All right, back to the episode. 

So last week, I said that it was gonna be my last episode about volunteers. I misspoke, but not lie, I misspoke. The last thing I want to talk about in terms of volunteers is connecting with your volunteers in the right way. I say this, as someone who volunteers at other organizations, I have done lots of different stints and I want to talk specifically about when I volunteered with the Avon walk out in DC and what I thought was helpful and what maybe not so much that I think other people can learn from. 

So I volunteered at the Avon walk and did it for several years. I want to say that the first year I did it was 2011 or 2012. And I just signed up on a whim, I was like, cool this sounds like a good idea. And what was helpful for me was that they let me choose where I would serve. So they had a list already created, this is what we need, where do you fit in?

I think oftentimes people say, I'm happy to do whatever you want. And we don't give them any clear direction of what's available for them in a concrete way. So we just say, Oh, you can help out in, like, the sorting. What does that mean? What does that entail? giving people a full description of this is what is expected of you will help them better gauge. Yes, I can commit to that I can be a dedicated volunteer for this long, this duration. 

Another thing the Avon walk did that I thought was very helpful and like making me want to come back is snacks. So if you know me in real life, food is important to me. And I think that you have to consider the context of where they're volunteering and where this makes sense. So you don't want to have your volunteers out in the summer in the heat and you're not providing them with water or some other hydration, you're not providing them with anything to eat. Because what will happen is if they're me, so I don't eat early in the morning, but I do volunteer early in the morning and so there becomes a shift of like midway through whatever my volunteer shifts as I’m like, I'm so hungry right now and that can be distracting. 

So you want to make sure that you have something I'm not saying put put out a full spread of food, but maybe think about, Hey, I don't want them to think about are they thirsty, I want to make sure that there's something light and easy that they can snack on without worrying about my hands dirty, what's going on, that you have something that's ready and available to keep them ready and prepped.

And the other thing that I wanted to talk about that Avon walk didn't do as great at that I think other organizations could learn from was calling me back. And I understand that some of this is related to changes in staffing. And so that's why when I mentioned this as a two part idea, is one you want to make sure that your volunteer records are accurate that whenever you have a new volunteer coordinator, they have access to Who are the people who have been volunteering in the past, where have they consistently lent their time? What's their contact information? 

That's the one thing you want to make sure that you have over and over that you're not losing your volunteers that you don't know who they are, because you're keeping records of that. So that's one thing. And the other thing you want to do is don't mix up your volunteers from your donors. So one of the things that I noticed several years later was that I got a call to donate well, because after several years of volunteering, they convinced me, I give in to the hype. 

I was like you want me to do 39.3 miles. Sure, I’m in. And so yes, I donated money, but I stopped getting calls about volunteering. And I got a lot more calls about Hey, will you give us some more money? That can be off putting. So especially because I was a volunteer for longer than I was a donor, I would have really have appreciated that they reached out and said, Hey, we haven't like, seen you lately, I would love to know what's going on, is there something we can do to support the same way you would nurture a donor to say, Thank you, we'd love for you to give us money. 

Again, I think you should nurture your volunteers to say we'd love you to give some more time. So those are the considerations that I think everyone can learn from is, one, making sure you have a clear list of what the volunteers are going to do. So that you have options so people can better self-direct. That way, you don't have volunteers who you feel are slacking off. But they're not slacking. They're just not interested in the task you've assigned them. 

The other thing is to have refreshments for them, hydration, and maybe there's something that they can eat because you don't want them to be distracted and hungry. You may say, oh, they're probably adults, they should be able to take care of themselves. Things happen, people forget, timing, scheduling, all types of things happen. So if you can have something that they can snack on, depending on the length of your shift, that's going to be greatly appreciated. 

The other thing, so two more things, is maintaining your volunteer record so that you keep an idea of who the volunteers are and where they are consistently volunteering. And so the other side of that is leveraging that listing and saying, Hey, we haven't seen you volunteer, we want to make sure things are okay. 

People want to volunteer, people want to be engaged, but life happens and for you to show some consideration and saying, Hey, we do miss you will go a long way for that when they're able to be re engaged. They can or if they can't, they can refer someone else to say hey, this organization is really great and they take care of their volunteers. You should check them out. That's it. Chyla Graham. Thanks for listening to another episode of The Nonprofit Ace Podcast.

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