Small non-profits, charities, and community groups often rely on the generosity and support of volunteers. Volunteering is a fantastic way to give back and make a real difference in local communities. For organisations, it is important to understand how to coordinate your volunteers to get the most out of them and how to recruit the best people for your organisation.
The Aspire4u team has years of experience in volunteer coordination. From festival stewards, event assistance, and operations-based roles, we have learnt many lessons along the way! Some of which we will share with you to help level up your volunteer recruitment and coordination.
Be clear in your expectations
From the first conversation, it is vital that you are clear about what level of commitment, values, and behaviour you expect from your volunteers. For example, we ask for a minimum commitment of 12 weeks and a flexible mindset (i.e. a willingness to try new things). This gives volunteers the power to assess if the role is right for them and you’re more likely to recruit those who are willing to meet your expectations.
Good communication is essential
As community organisations, we are truly grateful for any time people donate. However, it is not productive to be chasing volunteers who are unresponsive. A way to remedy this is to prioritise strong communication skills in candidates. If they are unable to volunteer one week, that’s fine, but you need to know nice and early so you can put contingencies in place. In the recruitment process, you can test a candidate’s communication skills by asking them about a time they used these skills in a work/study scenario. Secondly, assess how promptly they reply to your emails or phone calls. Finally, make it clear that communication is an essential skill and implement infrastructure so volunteers can communicate easily. For example, a group chat where they can let you know the hours they can work next week.
Get to know their skillset
Getting to understand your volunteer’s experience and skillset ensures you can set tasks where they can thrive. Also, they are more likely to find the placement fulfilling and stick around for longer. This can take some time and regular check-ins are required, but it’s worth it to make your team productive!
Show thanks and reward when possible
Showing appreciation to your volunteers is the best way to boost team morale and encourage volunteers to help for longer. Most of the work we do in the third sector would not operate without the support of volunteers, so make sure your team feels their importance. To say thank you for their hard work, we give gifts to volunteers at Christmas time and midway through the year. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, but it shows that you recognise the time they have contributed to your organisation. If this isn’t possible for you, handwritten cards of thanks will work just as well.
Implement a trial period
Before you invest time and resources in onboarding new volunteers, you want to make sure they are reliable and meet your expectations. We conduct a two-week trial period for all new volunteers to test their commitment and communication skills. This helps you further streamline the recruitment process and ensure you build a team that is strong and reliable.
Empowerment through training
The best volunteers use their initiative and can complete tasks without micromanagement. To achieve this you can instill confidence in your volunteers through training, so they feel empowered to make informed decisions in their role.
We hope these tips help you build your team and move your organisation forward. To find out more about our business development support, please get in touch. We do everything from business plans to bid writing!
Written by Laura Hodgetts
For Aspire4U CIC,
The Mindset Lead Organisation
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